As I watched this dispute unfold, the answer became obvious to me, volunteer firefighters. They are not paid a salary but are compensated with health care benefits, in exchange for responding to emergencies.
I am not suggesting we should replace our current fire personnel with volunteers outright but merely supplement them so the city can reach its stated goal of three firefighters to a truck. Not only would this solve the problem of staffing, but it would also create an opportunity in some of our most in-need communities. It would allow able-bodied citizens a chance to provide a much needed service to their community.
Imagine for a moment those individuals currently out of work due to the economic slowdown, all given an opportunity to gain permanent healthcare benefits, an opportunity to learn a new career and an chance to stand out as shining examples to their community.
This can be done while saving taxpayers money, providing a higher level of service and, if the city would make a portion of the savings available to the paid firefighters, avoiding a contract dispute.
Additionally, city leadership could cut the millage rate and pass the savings on to taxpayers who are being crushed under the weight of shrinking net incomes and higher bills.
This solution is available to City Council this one time only, and while the city attorney may tell them they have to vote up or down on the contract, nothing stops them from discussing this suggestion and postponing the vote.