Ferry town hall reset

MARTINS FERRY – The second annual community town hall meetings in Martins Ferry has been rescheduled for Feb. 13. The event will still take place 6 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Center.

Mayor Paul Riethmiller said he intended that such a meeting would take place every year of his four-year term.

This meeting will focus on the fire department, which recently held its 125th anniversary.

“They celebrated that last year, and we plan on taking time to recognize them,” he said.

He is also in contact with local officials such as the commissioners and the Emergency Management Agency director as well as local representatives.

Last year’s event included a chance to meet the new council members and administrators. The focus was on the police department, their duties and training, where officers and the new police chief were introduced. About 120 people attended. A similar number is hoped for this year.

“It was a huge success last year,” Riethmiller said, noting the positive response from citizens and the business community and requests for continued meetings.

Information and contact numbers were also passed out in the interest of promoting an open administration.

This year, the two chiefs of the four departments will speak and introduce firefighters from the four departments. There are 64 firefighters in the city. Former fire chiefs will be present.

“I want everyone in the community to have a good look at who your volunteer firefighters are,” he said, adding that the department is the oldest active strictly volunteer organization in town. He said few fire departments remain completely volunteer. “No individual volunteer organization in the history of Martins Ferry has served for 125 years.”

Among the issues to be discussed is funding for the department. Riethmiller noted that with departments struggling for state funding and grants, local support has been essential. The approval of a recent levy has made possible the purchase of a new pumper truck for Liberty Engine Co. He also noted the rising cost of equipment.

“The residents who live here have always supported our fire department levies,” he said.

Riethmiller added that he also hopes the meeting sparks an interest for more volunteers. While the department stands at 64 members, at one time it had boasted 100. Factors such as age and the need to work multiple jobs to support a family have contributed to the loss of volunteers for this difficult, unpaid work. Training has also intensified through state mandates.

The departments have instituted a cadet program for young people to begin training before the age of 21, when they will be covered by insurance.

It takes a lot of time and effort to learn the techniques, to learn the trucks. “When you’re spending that time at the station at practices, you’re spending time away from your family,” he said.

The initial meeting will include about an hour of speakers. Afterward, the community is invited to talk one-on-one with firefighters and representatives.

“As a volunteer fire department member, you’re giving back to your community to protect and serve your people and you’re doing it as a volunteer,” Riethmiller said. “We struggle to get young people to come in because people are so busy today.”

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com.