DILLES BOTTOM - The Shadyside Fire Department conducted a meeting Wednesday evening to discuss how the proposed levy will affect Mead Township.
It was the third of four scheduled meetings to discuss the levy.
Fire Chief David Lenz has discussed in great detail and length the advantages in passing the 4-mill levy and creating a fire district.
"The residents really haven't had any negative response," said Lenz. "People don't realize the name change, but it will be the same people."
The new fire district, if established, will be called OR&W, or the Ohio River and Western Fire District.
Lenz, along with the other members of the fire department, have been working towards the fire district for some time. The creation of the fire district will help with the dwindling numbers of volunteer firefighters and the rising costs of maintaining the fire department and equipment.
"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 at the Sept. 16 meeting. "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 firefighters 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 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 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 2-mill levy for the fire department, which, if passed, will be replaced by the 4-mill levy. The 2-mill was put on in 1996 and it has been the only levy that the fire department has utilized.
Along with the one levy, the fire district will become its own political force, and it 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 nearly150 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 4-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."
Van Dyne may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org