SHADYSIDE - The decision to implement a fire district for the village of Shadyside and residents of Mead Township now rests with the voters.
The members of the Ohio River & Western Fire Board voted Monday to go forth with placing an operating levy on the November ballot.
All that's left now is convincing the public to pay a little more in property taxes in order to fund the formation.
Currently, Shadyside residents are subject to a 2-mill levy for the all-volunteer fire department. For Mead Township residents, the levy amount is 0.5 mills.
OR&W is seeking a 4-mill levy which, if it is passed, would replace the current levies in place.
Owners with property worth $50,000 will see an increase of roughly $70 per year. That same property receiving a homestead exemption will see an increase of roughly $30.
"Our department has been all-volunteer for 80 years," Fire Chief Dave Lenz said. "But this is the future of our department right here. It's getting harder and harder to find volunteers and this will enable us to hire paid, part-time people to staff during daytime hours.
"We answered 800 calls last year which is a lot for a volunteer department of our size. Most of those were during the daytime."
Answering daytime calls is also difficult for the volunteer departments. Seeing as the majority of the department's roster works full-time jobs elsewhere, daytime availability is always in short supply.
What that results in is Shadyside and Mead Township are sometimes forced to rely on mutual aid from Neffs, Martins Ferry and the Spirit of '76 stations for help.
All three perform admirably. But in an emergency, every second counts.
"Paid personnel would be available at critical times of the day when volunteers are typically not able to respond," Lenz said. "Every second counts."
Lenz said OR&W will look to hire 14 part-time members, ensuring at least one paramedic and one emergency medical technician was on hand during dayshift, Monday through Sunday.
"If this passes, we'll look to start hiring people come the first of the year," Lenz said. "We will still have our volunteer staff and will be out recruiting new volunteers.
"Two guys in the firehouse don't make a department. But always having two staffed during the day is a significant improvement over not having anyone here."
Other benefits for the department and the community include:
Lenz explained that information public meetings will be scheduled in Sept. for residents in both Shadyside and Mead Townships so that any and all questions pertaining to the district may be answered.
No dates have been set as of yet. Those will likely be ironed out at the next board meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 20.
Lenz was somewhat encouraged by the public feedback he's received thus far from residents in regard to the district.
"I've talked to a good bit of people and they all seem to think it's a good idea and seem to be supporting it," said Lenz, noting this was prior to the decision on the levy amount.
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