Hess fire station to close as city cuts firefighters - WNEM TV 5

Hess fire station to close as city cuts firefighters

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

A Saginaw fire station is set to close after FEMA refused to renew a $2 million grant.

The Saginaw Fire Department announced it would be cutting its current staff from 51 down to 38 and one fire station by Jan. 31. Saginaw Fire Chief Christopher Van Loo confirmed to TV5 on Wednesday the department will be closing its Hess Avenue fire station.

The question still lingers why the city relies so heavily on the grant in the first place.

When FEMA denied to renew the city of Saginaw's SAFER grant, the fire department announced it would be forced to cut its current staff from 51 down to 38 in January.

"Anytime you have to lay one of those firefighters or even a police office off, it's devastating," Saginaw Mayor Dennis Browning said.

The city was denied the renewal of a federal grant that would have kept those firefighters on the force. It is $800,000 the city said it does not have.

"We can't afford to keep the amount that we have now without the help of the government or the state," Browning said.

City Manager Tim Morales said it all boils down to a tax cap that's been around for decades.

"We have very limited funds in the general fund from property taxes because of that tax cap. So this is a result of limited funding," Morales said.

The tax cap has been in place since 1979. It limits the amount of money the city can collect from property taxes each year to $3.8 million.

The cap is not adjusted for inflation and does not change no matter how big the city grows. Attempts to remove the cap have been rejected by the voters every time.

"The city has lost out on millions and millions of dollars of possible property taxes that could've been used for shoring up public safety, both police and fire. So we've lost out on that," Morales said.

He said it would be up to the city council to put the issue of lifting the cap to voters again.

As for Browning, he said despite the looming cuts, Saginaw residents won't see a drastic change to how the department responds to emergencies.

"We still have a good response time. Not the best that we would like, but we do have a good response time," Browning said.

The fire department plans to reapply for the SAFER grant against this winter in hopes of rehiring firefighters by the summer.

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