FCFD Speaks to Council

By ZAK GRIMM

The regular Council meeting on Monday, April 17, 2017 had more visitors than often happens, as both the Fredericktown Boy Scout Troop 342 and members of the Fredericktown Community Fire District stopped by to voice concerns and questions to Council members. Former longtime resident Tom Carter also spoke to Council with an update of the construction of rental housing units on Taylor Street on the grounds of the former Fredericktown Intermediate School.

“As most of you know, we’re well under construction on Taylor Street,” said Carter. “We’ve got one tenant in already, and two more tenants coming–one on Friday, the other on May 1st. We have other tenants coming later as well. That will give us 6 or 7 of the 10 units we’ve built that will be occupied.”

Carter talked about the original plans for the site, which were to include 14 rental units. Upon reconsideration, Carter’s team reduced that number to 10 units, as they stand now. Both the Planning Commission and Council approved the 10-unit plan in 2016.

Now, Carter–whom discussed a new plan with the Planning Commission and was given approval–would like to add additional units, coming in off 2nd Street. “The plan would be to come in with a drive [off 2nd Street], and do a unit identical to what we’re doing now, facing north, then do another 3-unit building facing south,” said Carter. There have been requests for one-bedroom units, so these new units could utilize that floor plan.

Carter, asking for Council’s approval, said he would like to get started in a timely manner, and agreed that the project could be completed to the point of indoor-work by the time the weather turns colder again in the fall. The overall project could be complete by the end of 2017, or early 2018. Carter first wants to ensure that he has all the leasing done that is possible, so that the existing units are as likely to be filled as can be.

“I think, given the current rate that they’re filling now, we’ll get there pretty soon. We have a lot of good construction workers waiting to get onto the project, and with your approval, we’ll get them keyed up for something later this summer,” said Carter.

Asked by Village Administrator Bruce Snell, Carter said that there would be five tap fees for the new units, both sewer and water.

After ensuring that both the Fire Department and EMS services would likely not have issue with the setup of the new units as they relate to the Taylor Street Commons as a whole, Council agreed with the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the new units move forward with construction.

Longtime resident and firefighter Jason Bostic joined many of his fellow firefighters on Monday night, and spoke to Council regarding the potential merger of the Fire Department and EMS services. There had been some buzz around the Village about the consolidation, and representatives from the Fire Department wanted to voice their concerns about such a move. The Village of Fredericktown is the single municipality in Knox County that does not have a consolidated Fire and EMS department. The FCFD currently serves an area of 115 square miles, roughly two miles of which is within the Village limits. “A very small but very populated area,” added Bostic. The number of separated departments in the State of Ohio is truthfully larger than many may believe, and separate entities like the two in Fredericktown have been functioning solidly as such for a very long time.

“We are here tonight representing the membership of the Fredericktown Community Fire District (FCFD), to introduce and open some communication about some new changes to the Executive Board of the FCFD. Since our District was designed, formed and approved back in the 1970s, we’ve worked under a Board of individuals that were appointed by each of their jurisdictions. Township Trustees would appoint someone from their township, and Council would appoint somebody from the Village,” said Bostic.

“We understand that coming into this, there will be a lot of questions that you might have on operations of our department, nomenclature, what we do, what we need, and who we are. Our doors are open, and we’re happy to help, we’re happy to inform you in anyway that we can assist you, as well. We’ve offered this to all the townships, and all of those whom are a part of our Fire District and whom will be representing us.”

“We know, as elected officials, you already have your plates quite full, and the new rule came as a surprise, but we appreciate that you stepped up and have a desire to be a part of what is one of the best departments in Knox County.”

“We answer to the taxpayers, just as all of you do, and we’re able to inform them really well about our end of the operation, and they’re able to ask questions of each new Board member, and of Council members as well as Township Trustees. We want to make sure that you have the knowledge you need about the FCFD when they do stop you on the street or at a meeting such as this–information about why we need certain equipment, how it’s used, why we don’t look at certain brands of equipment, and why we do. Information about what we’re planning for, training for, and so much more.”

“The other reason we feel it’s important to be here is regarding our position on merging both the FCFD and Fredericktown EMS services into a single agency,” said Bostic. “For over a month, the word has been out in the community that there has been talk of a merge being looked at as a possibility with the new Fire Board.”

“We have two letters tonight to deliver to Village Council–one is signed by a majority of our membership, and the other is signed by one of our Lieutenants whom is completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Administration, and is coming to completion of a research project about department consolidation.”

“We, as a membership, are not in favor of the merge,” said Bostic. “We have an amazing family at the FCFD, a dynamic of people that many departments would love to have, and the departments like us that have it would do anything to defend and protect it. We have professional volunteers that respond to the call, and go above and beyond on a regular basis. When the pool of valuable assets across the nation has dwindled–ours still respond.  We’re not operating a retail business here in the community–we’re operating a 24/7 facility and service that requires something that the community can’t do without. We’re taxpayers and members of the community ourselves. We live here, and our families live here.”

According to Lieutenant Charles Swank’s research findings, one of the main benefits of department consolidation is a “reduction in duplicated resources.” However, because the two departments in the Village [Fire and EMS] offer different services, the duplication is minimal. “If consolidation were between two departments that provide the same services, this benefit would be far greater.”

Secondly, Swank’s research supports the idea that consolidation does not equal financial savings. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the research supported the opposite–that there was actually an increase in taxpayer burden. This is largely because of the loss of volunteer personnel–something that the FCFD has a great deal of.

The cost of training firefighters to the level of paramedic services, or paramedics to the level of firefighters has been estimated at over $600,000 a year.

Some may believe that department consolidation allows for better service to communities. On the contrary, Swank wrote that both departments require hours of continuing education, and that a combination of training hours and education for a dual paramedic-firefighter discipline amounts to only one hour less than training for a physician. Specialty training only adds hours to this equation. According to the research, maintaining separate disciplines allows for both paramedics and EMS to focus on their individual responsibilities, and thus become more proficient, useful and effective to community members in need.

Lastly, Swank spoke to the human element of keeping the departments separate, saying that it is the people doing each job that make each as effective as they have been for the Village for decades, not the equipment. Those on the job are there because they have chosen to be, not because they’ve been forced into service.

Swank’s report will be finalized in May, and will be available to Council members for informative use.

In the coming weeks, the FCFD plans to speak to each Township about the merge and their beliefs in its negative impact on the Village and the entirety of the Fire District. On Wednesday, April 19th at 7:00 PM, the FCFD will be speaking to the Trustees of Berlin Township. Township and other residents are welcome to attend.

Fredericktown Boy Scout Troop 342 was also in attendance, as they periodically are, to give Scouts a taste of what municipal governing looks like. The Scouts had many questions for Council, mainly about the functions of the various Village entities, and the costs of performing those duties. Scouts asked about the costs of road work within the Village, the recent gas line work on East and West College Street, legislation throughout the year, crime issues, and the system of checks and balances for Council to other Village entities, and of the group itself.

Council then had a Second Reading of Resolution 2017-10, but no further discussion occurred during the meeting.

Village Administrator Bruce Snell said that the new lighting will finally be installed on Butler Boulevard, and installation will occur in-house. Snell also said that four park benches will be installed on the Owl Creek Trail, and the cost will be about $800 each.

On April 26th at 2:00 PM, the Shade Tree Commission will hold a meeting to finalize plans for the Arbor Day presentation and planting of 29 trees in the greenspace beside the Owl Creek Trail on North Main Street as it leads to State Route 95 by Leve-Agriman, as well as on Bollinger Drive. The Fredericktown FFA will be participating, as they often do.

A Community Blood Drive is scheduled for May 12th at Fredericktown High School from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and no appointments are necessary. The hope is that local businesses will participate, volunteering multiple employees to help reach the goal of 250 donations for the day.

On April 29th from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, the Police Department will host a Drug Drop-Off, allowing residents to safely dispose of their unused or expired medications, thereby helping reduce the likelihood that criminals can get a hold of those medications and abuse them.

On May 20th, Neighborhood Watch Members (and all interested residents) will be working to remove the graffiti under the Mill Street Bridge, helping beautify the area for the eventual walking trail that is being built along the Kokosing River in that area.

Lastly, Brown reminds residents that Dumpster Days will be on May 13th from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM, and Garage Sale Days will be May 5th and 6th.

Village Solicitor Adam Landon talked about potential changes to the Peddler’s and Solicitor’s Ordinances, making sure that changes reflect the entire scope of what those whom wish to solicit within the Village can and can’t do. Landon suggested creating some sort of Do Not Knock registry or list, so that unwanted solicitations are kept at a minimum. Landon also said that the Ordinance changes may include required background checks, for which FBI and Ohio BCI databases may be utilized if made available. Landon said he could have more information available at the next meeting.

Before adjourning, Council met in Executive Session to discuss the potential sale of real estate and the Pay Ordinance. No action was expected.

Council will meet again on Monday, May 1, at 7:00 PM in the Village Office. All residents are welcome to attend with questions or concerns.