By jeanne starmack
A proposal to convert the city’s paid fire department to all-volunteers is not going over well with everyone.
The proposal, in a state-mandated financial- recovery plan city council approved at its meeting Wednesday, calls for the eventual crossover to volunteers as the city’s paid firefighters retire. The chief’s position still would be paid and full time.
The move would help boost the city’s Insurance Services Office rating, city Finance Director Sherman Miles has said. The ISO rating is worsening, going up from six to 10 on a scale of one to 10 because the city cannot assure four firefighters at a fire scene. The higher ISO rating could cause homeowners’ insurance rates to rise.
There are five firefighters on staff now, plus the chief.
Chief Nick Hrelec said he is against the move.
“I want a full-time fire department in my city,” he said, adding that volunteers would be acceptable in conjunction with the full-time staff.
Fire Capt. David Horvath, who is president of the firefighters union, said it would be “a grave mistake” to convert the city’s department to volunteers.
He said townships use volunteers in areas where structures are farther apart.
Campbell is “four square miles with 3,000 structures jammed in,” he said.
Horvath said it would be hard to find and then retain volunteers, adding that they aren’t as dependable.
Firefighter Greg Rosile was called back from a layoff in January by Mayor George Krinos after the city was notified its ISO rating was worsening. He also said volunteers aren’t as dependable because other commitments often get in the way.
Rosile said the average volunteer’s response time is 15 minutes, and Campbell’s firefighters can be anywhere in the city in under four minutes.
Council President Bill Vansuch said parts of the plan can be amended, but its approval was critical so the city could present it to a state commission that oversees its finances at a Monday meeting. For every month the city didn’t have the recovery plan, designed to get it out of fiscal emergency, it would be penalized by being allowed to spend only 85 percent of what it spent last year.