Reed City, DDA working toward positive future

REED CITY — Members of the Reed City Council and Downtown Development Authority are committing to work together, moving the city forward in a positive direction that benefits all residents.

The decision follows weeks of tension between the two entities that began in December. According to DDA Executive Director Suzie Williams and Reed City Manager Ron Howell, Reed City Fire Chief Jim Decker and DDA members discussed financial assistance for the department in purchasing new equipment. The DDA agreed to help and issued a check.

Although the DDA has assisted the fire department in the same manner in the past, the city's charter states direct financial assistance from the DDA is not allowed. City council members were displeased with the action that had not been brought to their attention before the DDA asked for a budget amendment to allow for the transaction. Howell said the check was returned, and although Decker had offered a verbal resignation, Howell told him it wasn't necessary.

"An understanding was arrived at and we were planning to move forward," Howell added.

To sort through the mess of communication, both the DDA and city council members met on Jan. 27 to discuss the future of the DDA, each entities' concerns and how to positively move forward.

"Our whole goal now is to discuss the future," Williams said. "The DDA wants to be here to improve the quality of life within the city. We are trying to come together at the same table to work together."

The aftermath from the dispute between the three entities, however, resulted in the formal written resignation of former Reed City Fire Chief Jim Decker.

During the Feb. 17 Reed City Council meeting, council members accepted a resignation letter from Decker, who has been with the department since 1978. In his letter he states details of the funding discussion between himself and the DDA, and how he had believed the DDA worked differently than the city because the DDA had helped the department financially in the past. He claimed the issue was a misunderstanding between the fire department, DDA and city council.

"Since then I've been accused of being dishonest ... I'm not," Decker wrote in his letter. "I thought that I was doing a good thing.

"I have enjoyed working for the fire department, but I can’t take any more of the stress. I guess it is time for me to step up to the plate and be a husband, father and grandfather. With a heavy heart, I resign my position as chief of the Reed City Fire Department immediately.”

City council members accepted his resignation “with regret.” Council member Roger Meinert noted Decker’s historical career of service, adding he doesn’t think the chief should end his career in such a manner, and hopes the city can show its appreciation for him in the future.

Council member David Bisbee also spoke up during the meeting, asking fire department members' help and input regarding the department's budget along with a priority list of needs. He added he is grateful for the service of the firefighters and what the volunteers do for city and township residents in their time of need.

Dave Belden is currently acting fire chief for the department. Within the next 60 days, Howell will meet with department members to assess the department's needs, and then will present a report to city council.

Both Howell and Williams expressed a desire to let the past fade and look ahead for the years to come. The DDA needs to communicate more with city council, and hopes that will happen, Howell said.

"We're taking things a step at a time," he added. "It's a good thing and now let's continue it."