After more than 10 years as the current chief of Chelsea Area Fire Authority (CAFA), Jim Payeur submitted a 3-page retirement letter to the CAFA board on Tuesday morning, May 17.
His last day will be Nov. 30.
In a letter dated May 14 to the board, he said he began his 45 years in the fire service in November 1971, calling it “the greatest profession in the world.”
“Personally, I’ve known Jim for 35 years,” said board chair Tom Osborne. “I know of no man in this county who has done more for the fire service than Jim Payeur.”
The board voted 4-1 to accept his retirement letter.
“I hope you get to enjoy your retirement … rather than taking on a supervisor’s job,” said Craig Maier, who retired from the Chelsea Department of Public Works, then ran for supervisor of Lima Township.
Sylvan Township alternate board member Rod Branham was the lone no vote. He said after the vote that he wished “it had been handled in a different way.”
Payeur, who began as the Chelsea chief in 2005, listed 16 significant accomplishments that have been implemented during his many years as chief.
Among them are:
- The purchase of a tanker truck to improve water flow at rural fire scenes.
- Upgrading the department’s fleet while eliminating excess vehicles and in the process the need for off-site storage of unneeded equipment.
Payeur said he is proud to report that the current fleet of fire apparatus is in great mechanical condition, including the aerial platform truck that was in poor condition when he arrived.
He implemented the current staff of full-time and paid-on-call department members, which include two full-time people on duty who are supplemented by paid-on-call firefighters. This change also improved service, he said, for structure fires and vehicle extractions.
Also included in the list of accomplishments are controlling costs by using full-time staff for emergencies, improved training and performance standards, maximized funding for the authority using federal grants, improved ISO ratings throughout the CAFA service area and reduced insurance rates for some residents.
“This put our fire department in the top 10 percent of fire departments,” he said of the change in the ISO rating.
- A 1.8 mill tax levy was approved and renewed by the voters of the CAFA member municipalities, which negated the large fluctuations in municipal costs because of increased usage under the former funding formula.
- CAFA and the Dexter Area Fire Department now have a joint response system that has resulted improved response times in Lyndon and Lima Townships.
- Payeur was also part of the vision for the remodeled Middle Street Fire Station No. 1, which is now better suited to full-time fire staff needs with upgraded living space requirements and sufficient office space for fire staff.
“We spent roughly $200,000 on the remodel and greatly improved the function of the station and now have a building we can take pride in,” he wrote, adding a sinking foundation in the northwest corner of the fire station has also been repaired.
In addition, under Payeur’s guidance, a second fire station was opened – this one in Lima Township. The board spent about $173,000 to have a vacant commercial building turned into a fire substation complete with living quarters and space to park apparatus.
This second station improves fire and emergency service to not only Lima Township but also to the I-94 corridor, which are part of an automatic mutual aid response with other area fire departments.
“These accomplishments would not have happened without (the many people who supported me) … my excellent staff of officers and firefighters, both full-time and paid-on-call, as well as board members and my fire chief peers and firefighters in the Washtenaw County fire service,” he said.
“More importantly, it is the support and encouragement of the citizens I have had the pleasure of serving that has driven my passion for the fire service,” he said.
At the end of his letter, Payeur said, “I came to Chelsea with excitement in my heart, eager to build the best fire department and provide the best possible service with minimal funding. While there have been tough issues to deal with, I view them as challenges to overcome and lessons to learn from. I will look back fondly on the years of service to the CAFA communities. It is my desire that my firefighters, this fire department, will chose to soar with the eagles and garner the respect it deserves.”