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Shaker & UH Fire Unions' Counsel Questions Merger Study

The attorney who represents both groups says there inaccuracies in the feasibility report on the potential merger of fire departments

Shaker & UH Fire Unions' Counsel Questions Merger Study

Though nearly two months have passed since the Shaker Heights and University Heights fire departments received a feasibility report on their potential fire merger, some of the involved parties now have more questions than ever.

Susannah Muskovitz, legal counsel for the unions that represent both departments, on Thursday reiterated the tone of a letter the University Heights firefighters union sent to Mayor Susan Infeld earlier this month stating that the feasibility study contains plenty of inaccurate information. The Sun News first reported on the letter to Infeld.

"Wages, staffing, benefits and basic stuff — things they shouldn't get wrong," Muskovitz replied when asked about the inaccuracies the union found in Emergency Services Consulting International's report.

"I was surprised at how sloppy it was, to be honest."

Marty O'Neill, vice president of Shaker's union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 516, declined to comment on the University Heights letter via email.

Muskovitz said that the union's criticism of the feasibility study does not mean that the group opposes merging with Shaker.

"We're not opposed to a merger, in theory," she said, "we're opposed to moving forward, blindly, on something that is based on bad data."

Shaker Heights Fire Chief Kevin Jacobs would not comment on University Heights' department, but said that his department was asked to supply information for the report. He found no issues with the report and said he supports combining the departments.

"If opportunities exist that we can enhance service levels, we have to do our due diligence to explore them," Jacobs said. "I think this is what this opportunity presents. We will provide an enhanced level to both communities."

Muskovitz said both departments deserve a better picture of what combined fire services will look like.

"Is the goal to cut money or look more carefully at what is the best way to deliver the service of fire protection to communities," she said. "(ESCI doesn't) seem to be focused on response time or equipment or the community."

ESCI representatives previously said they are still gathering findings to prepare an implementation strategy.

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