Fire Chief Brian Gerig loses job over truck purchase

December 1, 2010 —

Disagreements about the purchase of a new fire truck led to fire chief Brian Gerig being removed from his post as the cost of blocking a new fire truck he felt was inadequate for the city. The Hudson City Council, at their meeting last Tuesday, voted to not purchase the fire truck proposed by Hudson City Manager Steve Hartsel.

Hartsel explained that the city has been looking at replacing the 35-year old Engine 7 for some time. For several months, the department has been working on a custom fire truck that would meet the city’s needs.

One of the needs is for the truck to be replaced fairly quickly in order to maintain the city’s favorable fire insurance rates, which are due for review next month, for the first time since 1994.

In an effort to break the impasse, Hartsel recommended to Council that one of the trucks under study, an existing 2008 model, be purchased at a price tag of $450,000, much of which would be paid by the Local Development Finance Authority either as a grant or a very low interest loan.

Several firemen, including Chief Gerig, were opposed to the purchase, saying that the vehicle was inadequate. Gerig said that he felt obligated to inform council members of his concerns, which included inadequate safety devises and backup systems, as well as the lack of availability of suction. Early last week, Gerig said he contacted several council members stating his concerns.

Hartsel said that he felt Gerig’s actions were insubordinate and may have been in violation of the Michigan Open Meetings act. On Monday, Hartsel removed Gerig from the fire chief position administatively. Jerry Tanner Jr. has since been appointed acting fire chief.

Tanner reported to Council Tuesday evening tha t the fire department met last Monday evening to discuss the purchase, and said that the firemen were not in favor of buying the truck without further exploration.

At the Council meeting, the Council voted 6-1 to not purchase the truck that Hartsel had recommended. Councilman Ed Engile commented that the features of the truck had to meet the needs of the department, but that the final purchase decision had to be made by the council and city manager.

Hartsel said after the meeting that the question of a new truck is under review and there is still hope that one can be purchased in the near future.

In other business, the Council also heard the annual Audit Report from City Auditor Phil Rubley. Rubley gave the city an unqualified report, the highest given by auditors, but warned the city to continue watching their finances during the troubled economy. It was noted that the turnaround of the ambulance fund was a positive point of the audit, with an $80,000 deficit being changed to a gain of more than $80,200 and a revenue excess of over $77,000.

The Council also:

• Voted to approve a resolution honoring the late Joe Haley for the many years he served on the Hudson Planning Commission.

• Named former City Clerk Kim Murphy to a post on the Hudson Local Development Finance Authority, expiring in December 2013.