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Officials study fire district details



Published: Fri, October 20, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Preliminary work on a resolution will begin immediately.

By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

HUBBARD -- City and Hubbard Township officials exploring the possibility of a joint fire district here took time Thursday to go over particulars of such a move with an expert on fire districts.

David Comstock Jr., chief of Western Reserve Joint Fire District, met with officials and interested resident. He's has been instrumental in starting other area joint fire districts, and is an attorney who deals with issues concerning joint fire districts on a regular basis.

City and township officials would like to have the resolution creating the district in place by the start of next year. Comstock said getting the process under way quickly is highly possible.

"It is not that difficult to create the documents for a fire district," he said. "If all were to approve tonight, I could get this together in two weeks."

The first move

Comstock said the first move is to draw up a resolution creating the district that both communities can agree on.

He also offered city and township officials a list of things to consider in creating the district.

Officials must take into consideration territorial limits, office location, procedures for approving trustees, and lease agreements for the current fire station. He also said the name of the district cannot legally contain the name of either community.

Comstock suggested the five-person board that would oversee the district be composed of one trustee and one councilman, both serving two year terms. The remaining three members, he said, should come from the community serving three-year terms and being selected alternately by township and city officials.

Some have questioned the need for a joint fire district. But Comstock said creating the district would facilitate getting fire issues solved because firefighters would only have to deal with one board of five -- instead of three township trustees and seven members of council.

Creating a fire district also would help create an ambulance service that would cut down on ambulance response times.

Some officials questioned how the district would be funded if it were started before any levies were approved by voters. Officials plan to start the district in January, but will not go to the voters for a levy until later in the year.

Current funding

The volunteer department currently operates on a 1-mill levy in the city and a 11/2-mill levy in the township. Comstock said both communities would likely agree to put all proceeds from those levies into an account for the district. Any additional funding would have to go before voters, he said.

Comstock said the district will only work if everyone involved -- firefighters, officials and residents -- agree to make it happen.

Firefighters and officials unofficially agreed to go forward with the district.

Comstock said he will begin drawing up a resolution for the district and will have something to officials within 10 days. If the district is approved, firefighters say they hope to begin limited ambulance service in early January -- serving as first responders to stabilize patients until an ambulance arrives. The department would like to then provide ambulance transport starting in 2008.

Once the joint district is fully operational, fire representatives said the department will have about 10 full-time employees and about 20 part-time paramedics and emergency medical technicians. The board would be responsible for all hiring.

jgoodwin@vindy.com




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