DES MOINES, IA – A staffing controversy is heating up between Des Moines firefighters and city leaders. According to the Local 4 firefighter union, 80 percent of firefighters want a change in leadership.
Union leaders said the number of firefighters has slid from 310 to 280, which alarms leaders since crews are responding to 600 more calls this year compared to last year.
That dissatisfaction of rank is detailed on a new web site www.saveDMFD.com, which launched Monday.
“It sends a clear message that our members are unhappy with what’s going on with the administration of the Des Moines Fire Department and Chief John Tekippe,” said Joe Van Haalen, Local Union 4 president.
The website fires off numerous complaints about Tekippe.
A July vote of no confidence resulted in 221 of 249 members voting against Tekippe.
“This is about doing the right thing and keeping guys safe. If there wasn’t a dollar that this city had to spend, we’d be ok with that if we felt like we were safe and changes were being made in a positive direction toward our safety and our member’s safety and that hasn’t been happening,” Van Haalen said.
Tekippe sent KCCI this statement:
“There has been a level of frustration following the series of budget reductions we have experienced since the fall of 2008 and this does affect confidence. During this period, we have maintained our high level of service as measured by our citizen’s satisfaction ratings, our response times, and our operational capacity.”
Des Moines city manager Scott Sanders said there are no plans to shakeup DMFD leadership.
“The response times and the quality of service that our fire department gives is top-notch, and the citizens recognize that. Why lead to a change in leadership based on those facts?” Sanders said.
In a 2013 conducted by the city, 90 percent of residents polled were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with overall fire protection.
Tekippe said Tuesday that he and other officials are working to stretch every dollar possible for the department. A grant has been submitted to provide the resources for 15 additional firefighters.