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Falls Council considering fire department staffing

7/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Upon returning from August recess, Cuyahoga Falls City Council will debate staffing of the city’s fire department, ultimately deciding if three additional employees should be added.

Four additional firefighters were added to the department in 2012, but is that enough? Council commissioned a professional study this past fall to find out. McGrath Consulting Group was paid $40,000 to evaluate the department, specifically manpower, city officials said.

The results were discussed at the close of the July 22 Council meeting.

Fire Chief Paul Moledor publicly presented the findings, noting several times McGrath said the department does an “excellent” job.

He explained the study revealed the department is among the top 96 percent in the state.

Moledor said the report states the department is “well managed, cost effective” and offers a “high level of emergency service,” among other compliments.

He also explained McGrath showed the department correctly uses mutual aid, has short response times and maintains an excellent Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating of a three.

Moledor added that call volumes have stayed steady from 2008 to 2013, as have response times.

He said McGrath was pleased with the amount of training the employees receive, as well.

According to the chief, the issue of staffing was the most controversial part of the study and one of numerous recommendations made by McGrath that could strengthen the department.

He said McGrath recommends the department increase from 16 to 19 minimum firefighters on duty at a time.

However, Moledor believes 16 remains an appropriate number based on the good remarks in the report.

Currently, the department has three five-person units and one shift commander on duty at a time, he explained. The chief said mutual aid always is available as a sixth unit.

International Association of Firefighters Local 494 President and Falls Fire Lt. David Witner wants that sixth unit to be located in the city, however.

He also spoke during the meeting, specifically focusing on the importance of going from 16 to 19 firefighters on duty at a time.

Witner said three extra firefighters would only increase the safety of the city and the men and women on duty.

Mayor Don Robart also weighed in on the matter. He said all of the fire departments in Ohio have been forced to do more with less, and the city’s department remained strong despite cutbacks.

He asked Council if they receive calls from constituents complaining about response calls or the fire department’s services. The answer is “no,” he said.

Robart told Council it would cost the city about $870,000 a year to add three more firefighters. He said it would be “impossible” to alter the budget enough to afford the new employees without making major cuts to other city services.

At the Sept. 3 meeting of the Public Affairs Committee, the staffing issue will be further discussed by Council, Council President Don Walters (D-Ward 6) said.

Also during the meeting, Council approved:

  • a conditional zoning certificate for the operation of a vehicle repair facility at 2010 Bailey Road in an MU-2 Neighborhood Center District;
  • the preliminary plat of the Hidden Lakes Phase 3 subdivision;
  • the site plan related to the French Mill Run subdivision plat;
  • the preliminary and final subdivision plat of the French Mill Run subdivision;
  • a contract with Siemens Industry Inc. for the purchase of a distribution feeder automation system for use by the Electric Department;
  • the issuance and sale of $7.6 million principal amount of notes, in anticipation of the issuance of bonds, to revitalize the State Road Redevelopment Area by acquiring, clearing and improving certain properties in that area;
  • applications submitted by financial institutions and designating depositories for the active and interim funds of Cuyahoga Falls for the five-year period beginning Aug. 23 and ending Aug. 22, 2018;
  • a contract with Bell Equipment Co. for the purchase of a used Epoke salt spreader for use by the Street Department;
  • a contract with Coastal Steel Management for the purchase of a prefabricated, unassembled metal storage building; and
  • a Community Reinvestment Area Tax Exemption Agreement with French Mill Run LLC.

Council will hold committee meetings Sept. 3 and a regular meeting Sept. 9, both beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St.

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