BELLAIRE - At Thursday night's meeting, council voted not to renew the contract between the village and Neffs Fire Dept. Additionally, village officials have decided to establish the Bellaire Volunteer Fire Dept. and have appointed current Code Enforcer Bill Swoyer as the new fire chief of Bellaire.
The contract between the Neffs Fire Dept. and the village is set to expire on July 30, which should give the village enough time to get everything in order with the newly established volunteer fire department.
"We are set at getting the volunteer fire department set up and ready to go," said Councilman Josh Meyer. "It will be in the very capable hands of new fire chief Bill Swoyer. If Neffs finishes out the contract like they are supposed to, then we have a decent amount of time to get things in order."
Meyer also stated that even if the Neffs Fire Dept. withdraws its aid from the village before the current contract expires, the village will be okay. "We have contingency plans in place to help us through the transition," he said.
Meyer explained that the contingency plans consist of the village receiving mutual aid from the departments of other neighboring municipalities. The village has been in contact with a few other departments, and they are willing to provide Bellaire with aid as needed until the village can get its own department up and running.
Financial issues certainly were a factor in council's weighing of the decision not to renew the contract with Neffs. Currently, the village has a deficit of over $100,000, and the Neffs Fire Dept. is still going through some hefty bankruptcy problems, which would make correcting the village deficit even more difficult if the contract were to be renewed. Nevertheless, Meyer explained that while village finances played a role, there was more to the decision than just that.
"Finances played a big part in it, as we are trying to correct our budget issues," he said, "but even more importantly, I am hoping that it creates community involvement. My hope is that people will rally around a fire department that they can call their own and that we will grow into the best fire department to serve the area."
Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.