Sheriff reacts to response time criticism

LISBON – Columbiana County Sheriff Ray Stone responded to criticism coming from Knox Township fire officials concerned about what they say is the slow response time to serious incidents in the township.

Another local publication reported that North Georgetown firefighter Troy Kinser attended last week’s township trustees meeting to express his displeasure at the sheriff’s office response to the July 2 shooting death at the Country Squire Trailer Park.

According to the story, Kinser said a Sebring police officer was sitting right across the street, but the lack of a mutual aid agreement with the sheriff’s office prevented the officer from responding. The officer instead sat there until the first sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene.

North Georgetown Fire Chief Ed Reichenbach, who was contacted for this story, said there was a second incident that occurred in April when a Westville Lake woman sustained what turned out to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Not knowing what to expect, the first responder crew from the fire department decided to enter the home rather than wait for a deputy, even though a nearby Sebring police officer would have been of more immediate assistance.

“If we hadn’t went into the house when we did she likely would’ve died,” Reichenbach said. The responding deputy arrived 10 to 15 minutes after the first responders, and he said they would have preferred knowing the home was secure before entering the residence to provide assistance.

“We’ve met with the sheriff at a trustees meeting and he doesn’t give a good reason why he won’t sign a mutual aid agreement with Sebring,” Reichenbach said.

Sheriff Stone said while there are mutual aid agreements between fire departments, there is no such thing between law enforcement agencies, who are free to assist each other when asked to do so.

“I showed them the Ohio Revised Code that says whenever the sheriff’s office calls for help they (responding agency) are covered” when it comes to liability, he said. “They must think that this must be like mutual aid agreements between fire departments.”

Sebring is located just over the line in Mahoning County, but Stone said his department has requested assistance from other police departments located just over the border.

“We’ve had assistance in the past from all of them – Goshen, Smith and even Sebring. We take assistance from anyone who can help,” he said.

Whether they request assistance from other departments is a judgment call, depending on the circumstances and availability of his deputies, who do the best they can given the limited manpower that often results in only two deputies on patrol in the entire county.

“We can have a deputy in Liverpool (Township) or Rogers and get called to Homeworth. That’s quite a drive,” he said. “We get there just as soon as we can, the same as any other township.”

As for attending any future trustee meetings on the subject, Stone said township and fire officials are free to come to his office in Lisbon.