Pritchard says trustees should look at reorganizing the part-time firefighters.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Township trustees are considering the fire department's future.
Trustee Lisa Oles said she wants trustees to reopen fire station No. 4 on South Turner Road using, in part, $9,200 the township saved through her decision to forgo her medical benefits this year.
Trustees closed that station last year as part of their efforts to save money and avoid a deficit.
"I feel if I'm giving up $9,200 of medical benefits in the township, I should be able to use the money for what I think is best for the township," she said. "We're approaching the holiday season. People are going to be baking. With the bad weather, there might be accidents."
Trustee Bo Pritchard, however, said he would like to see a report from Fire Chief Andrew Frost about reorganizing the department's part-time firefighters before making a decision about No. 4.
Pritchard said he wants to know if it would be more effective to have all the township's part-time firefighters based in two stations instead of four, as they have been in the past.
"What we want is an effective volunteer response to the areas that really need it," he said.
Trustee David Ditzler added that reorganizing the part-time firefighters could make the fire department more efficient, saving the township money.
Oles has listed an item on the agenda for Monday's trustees' meeting about reopening the station; Pritchard said he expects trustees to delay discussion on the item until hearing from Frost. The meeting is at 7 p.m. in township hall.
"I think the trustees and I need to sit down and put together a game plan," Frost said after hearing Pritchard's comments.
Ditzler also questioned Oles' motives for adding the item to the agenda. "Her placement of this, if not just for discussion, is purely political," Ditzler said.
The township has four fire stations -- No. 1 on state Route 46, No. 2 in the Wickliffe neighborhood, No. 3 on South Raccoon Road, and No. 4.
Nos. 1 and 2 are staffed by full-time and part-time firefighters, while Nos. 3 and 4 have been staffed by part-timers only.
Trustees had estimated that by closing the No. 4 station in April 2003 they would save the township about $6,000 a year, mostly in utility fees. The station was staffed by 12 part-time firefighters.
Pritchard said No. 4 has not responded to some calls in the past because there were not enough part-time firefighters available. He wants to know if moving more part-time firefighters to stations 3 and 4 will ensure a better response in the future.
Pritchard also stressed that he believes the township has not been impacted by the closing of No. 4.
Oles, meanwhile, said she believes trustees also should use the $1,400 monthly rent they receive from Lane's LifeTRANS paramedics to help pay to reopen No. 4. Trustees approved a lease with Lane's in June that allows the paramedics to use a section of station No. 3.
Oles also noted that despite the trustees' continuing financial concerns, about $15,200 was available recently to pay Thomas Fok & amp; Associates to serve as consultants for the township's road department.
The firm will assist Township Administrator Michael Dockry, who also has been directing the road department since road Superintendent Michael Bertilacci retired Aug 1.