Green Twp. fire chief: Need funds to pay responders

GREENFORD – Fire Chief Todd Baird presented township trustees with a proposal to begin paying firefighters for fire and EMS calls.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Baird noted the Green Township Volunteer Fire Department has provided the service free since 1943.

He said, “It’s very difficult to do for free any more,” adding the department has been underfunded for years.

The department operates on $80,000 a year from the township budget and raises additional money through its annual Firemen’s Festival, a pancake and sausage breakfast and by constantly applying for grants.

The Ladies auxiliary of Green Township and the Greenford Ruritan also help with equipment and supply purchases.

Baird provided a per call breakdown showing the department responded to 287 calls in 2013 with a total of 2,116 personnel responding.

Deducting the 202 calls that he responded to because he is paid, Baird took the remaining 1,914 individual responses and calculated how much it would cost to pay respondents if they were paid from $5 to $10 per call.

At $5 per call the total is $9,570 and at $10 per call is $19,140.

Responding personnel would get paid for every run, and if it was a medical transport (EMS) those personnel would continue to be paid the transport funds they currently receive.

Baird included an opt-out clause for members not wanting to get paid and there would be no pay for training. Employees would be paid twice a year.

For comparison, pay schedules for other departments were included.

The Columbiana fire department is the highest in the area at $19 per hour with a two hour minimum while North Jackson pays $13 per call.

He said some departments pay per call whether they transport or not.

“One thing is it’s difficult to track per hour (calls),” he said, explaining it needs to be broken down and that can’t be done. He suggested doing it on a per call basis.

Baird explained people doing the transporting get paid transport money because of the extra time to the hospital, restocking and washing the ambulance.

Another issue is the $2 million in equipment and keeping trained personnel to operate it, Baird said.

“Today we’re at 31 people. I have to have the people. This isn’t a tomorrow thing … this is a future thing.”

For department longevity “someone has to make a sacrifice,” he said, “the kids today won’t work for nothing.”

He pointed to the Damascus Volunteer Fire Department that operates on $160,000 annually.

“That’s two times what we work with,” he said while noting “we’ve lowered homeowners insurance.” The township has a Class 5 Insurance Office Rating.

“So, if we have to ask for money, I think, for the longevity of the department, we’ll have to compensate the EMS and firefighters.

“We’ve more than given back to the community in lower insurance rates. We’ve brought a new level of professionalism to EMS and firefighting.”

Trustee Chairman Dave Slagle said the board would give it some thought and Trustee Mark Stepuk wondered about a breakdown regarding how many EMS or fire personnel are responding and Baird said,” I don’t think I can break it down as far as the number of people.”

In other fire department business, Baird presented a building drawing for the proposed firehouse expansion and wanted to meet separately with trustees regarding it.

There are issues, most prominent is the estimated $100,000 over what was budgeted.

Also, trustees approved a measure for the fire department to purchase “Firehouse” software for $560.

And the township’s Christmas tree recycling program continues until the end of the month and Stepuk said he will attend a meeting with the Mahoning County engineers office today.