Debate rages in Belleville over city's proposal to get rid of fire department

City proposes to eliminate fire department, use neighboring township's services

BELLEVILLE, Mich. – There's a huge debate Monday night in Belleville about the city's proposal to eliminate its fire department and let a neighboring township provide services.

The idea isn't sitting well with residents and current firefighters. Current firefighters would have to re-apply for their jobs, but residents don't like the idea of the city's only firehouse shutting down. They don't see the benefit.

Inside the Belleville firehouse, the gear is lined up and the engines are ready for an emergency, but the Belleville City Council is debating whether the firefighters who work there should stay.

"We are baffled," Belleville Fire Department Capt. Kriss Rix said. "It doesn't make any sense to us."

The city started negotiations to enter into an inter-governmental agreement with Van Buren Township. Under the agreement, Belleville's only firehouse would shut down and the town of nearly 4,000 residents would rely on services from Van Buren Township.

"I'm concerned jumping into an agreement like this is going to leave the community with a hole," Rix said.

His sentiments were echoed by many who question what the outside fire services would provide for Belleville residents.

So many people showed up for the City Council meeting Monday that it had to be moved to the nearby high school. Council members got an earful.

Belleville's mayor insisted that safety is the No. 1 priority, but acknowledged that it comes down to the city's ability to finance the fire department in years to come.

The attorney for the Firefighters Association filed for an injunction, throwing a possible legal wrench in the city's efforts.