SHADYSIDE - The Shadyside Fire Department held a fire board meeting to discuss the possibility of creating a fire district for both Shadyside and Mead Township.
Residents of Shadyside came to the meeting to learn the amount of tax increase to expect. The increase will come out to about $61, and if a resident age 65 or older is on the Homestead Act, then he or she can expect an increase of $30.63.
Chief David Lenz, along with the other members of the fire department, has been working towards the fire district for some time. The creation of the fire district will help with the dwindling numbers in volunteer fire fighters and the rising cost of maintaining the fire department and equipment.
T-L Photo/KAYLA VAN DYNE
Shadyside fire chief David Lenz stands before residents of Shadyside, talking about the advantages of having a fire district. The fire district will cover the village of Shadyside and Mead Township. Sitting is Shadyside Councilman Tom Bell, who will be a member of the fire district board.
"We are up around 800 calls a year, which is a lot of calls for one volunteer department to be able to answer," said Lenz. "Obviously, it is very difficult for us to keep up with the calls with the number of volunteers that we have, especially during the daytime hours."
The creation of the fire district would allow the fire department to hire fire fighters on a part-time basis to work in the hours when most of the daytime calls go unanswered. About 60 percent of the calls that the Shadyside Fire Department would receive are during the daytime hours. The paid part-time personnel will work during these hours, which is usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The answer to this problem is a fire district.
"A fire district is basically taking two different entities such as the Mead Township and Shadyside back towards the latter part of last year. They signed an agreement to form the district and those two entities came together to start the new fire district," states Lenz.
Lenz also points out there will be many different advantages to having a fire district. Such advantages includes no duplication of equipment such as fire trucks. There will be one levy between the two entities; currently, Shadyside has a two mill levy for the fire department, which, if passed, will be replaced by the four mill levy. The two mill was put on in 1996 and it has been the only levy that the fire department has put on.
Along with the one levy, the fire district will become its own political force, and they will have a board of directors that will act as their government.
"With that, we have a fire board ... They oversee the operations of the fire department, streamline the operations and it also makes us better available to get grants," said Lenz. "Grants are very important. They are out there, being part of the village or the township, really makes it more difficult ... It makes it better to get those grants when they become available to us."
With the installation of the fire board, the nearly 150 calls that the Shadyside Fire Department cannot answer because of the lack of volunteers can be answered. The part-time personnel positions will be opened to those who already volunteer at the station. Those who remain a volunteer will get paid per call, which is something they have never done before.
The EMS services will also be included in this as well. Right now, there has never been a levy put on the EMS services, but since 2003, the Shadyside Fire Department does charge the insurance companies when a patient is taken to the hospital. That money has gone towards operations of the fire department. The money from these EMS calls, if the fire district is approved, will be put aside to buy equipment.
"That is what's keeping us a float," said Lenz. "What we want to put on is a four mill levy that will fund the district and the operational expenses of the district."
"We want to provide the best possible service we can ... It's all about taking care of the people," said Lenz. "That is a lot of calls to miss. It really hits home when you have these calls during the day and you just don't have the personnel ... We want to be able to answer our own calls, we want to be able to respond to those calls when people need us. We are dealing with lives and property here. The minutes and seconds are huge. For us to have a crew here when that tone goes down to get in that squad and get out that door in less then a minute, is just huge. Really, it's priceless."