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Report provides direction to fire district

Western Reserve board spends $35K for study

POLAND — A presentation to the Western Reserve Fire District on Thursday will lead the way to discussions for some time.

“This is a starting point,” fire Chief David “Chip” Comstock said.

The gathering was not a public meeting, but more “informational,” fire district officials said.

In attendance were mostly fire district personnel. No action was taken.

Initially, a conversation in 2019 about finances within the fire district evolved into having a performance audit done to look at strengths and weaknesses, officials said.

“This is the first” stage of developing a strategic plan, Comstock said.

The fire board spent $35,000 for the study, conducted by McGrath Consulting Group, Inc. of Illinois. As a result, a 146-page report was provided to the board. It was given to members on Thursday.

Stakeholder reviews were conducted, specifically with the fire district’s board of trustees, leadership and department members. Interviews were done in person and by phone.

Overall, the firm identified data collection and storage, a single dispatch center, improved staffing and utilizing team leadership as key areas on which to focus.

Another problem area identified was “dropped calls,” or calls that were unable to be answered. In 2019, 12 percent went unanswered, with 7 percent in the first seven months of 2020, the firm said.

It also was decided that a strategic plan is necessary, with input from the public, such as schools, consultants said.

“Conflicting data” also was found, which the firm said isn’t unique to the Western Reserve Fire District.

McGrath recommends cloud-based data management, implementation of a data-quality control program and ongoing training in reporting.

Consideration of part-time or EMS personnel is an option to help with staffing concerns, the report states.

While fire district officials agree the report is a starting point to begin dissecting how to improve areas of the department, Comstock and the district assistant fire chiefs met to provide a response to a draft proposal.

In the response, the group corrected statistical errors, such as population or age of vehicles.

McGrath said the way the firm arrived at its conclusions aren’t “black and white.”

Within the coming months, Western Reserve Fire District chairman Ed Kempers said he is anticipating creating groups to begin dissecting the report.

“This is going to be ongoing, fluid until we exhaust everything from it,” Kempers said. “This is a process. It could go on for months, for years. It’s a guide.”

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