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Peninsula, Boston to benefit from fire district changes

9/5/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

PENINSULA — With the Valley Fire District expanding its service area into Boston Heights, residents in Peninsula and Boston Township will benefit, according to local officials.

Boston Heights officials signed a three-year agreement Aug. 22 with the fire district to provide fire and emergency medical services (EMS) to that community 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will go into effect Oct. 1.

Valley Fire District Chief Charles Riedel said the contract also will allow the district to have staff on duty and in a station 24 hours a day for the district’s other two communities of Peninsula and Boston Township.

“Up until this time, we’ve had staff [in the station] 10 hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., which is the busiest time of day,” the chief said.

During other hours, the paid staff responded from home, much like a volunteer department, Riedel said.

“Because of the decision that the Village of Boston Heights Council has made, they have secured the safety and welfare of the three communities,” Peninsula Mayor Doug Mayer said in a statement. “This is big, awesome, monumental.”

Boston Heights officials said the cost to have the district provide services would be about the same as it has been to operate its own fire and EMS department, with better and more services.

The contract will also place an ambulance in Boston Heights on a full-time basis, which it previously did not have, according to Boston Heights officials.

Mayer said the three communities were originally joined together as Boston Township and formed in 1811. Peninsula incorporated as a village in 1859, he said, and Boston Heights incorporated in 1923, and the three communities formed their own departments. In 1976, Boston Township and Peninsula officials formed the Valley Fire District.

Riedel said Boston Heights officials have considered joining the fire district for several years.

“Since the early ’80s, they have been coming to us and looking at this thing,” he said. “This is the fourth time we’ve sat down. What’s different is they just felt it was time. We’re pretty much alike; the communities are pretty similar.”

The chief added the communities decided on the contract over a merger so that they can see how the agreement works out. Boston Heights will pay the district $240,000 annually, Riedel said, and the district will lease the Boston Heights fire station and the former department’s equipment.

He said he is currently evaluating how to staff the two stations so there will be personnel working in at least one of them 24 hours a day.

Riedel said part of the agreement is that Boston Heights staff can apply to work for the Valley Fire District. So far, he has received applications from two of the 10 staff members. He would like to add 10 employees to his current staff of 40, he said.

Currently, the district responds to about 400 calls a year, while the Boston Heights department has between 100 and 150 a year, Riedel said.

The chief added that down the line, the agreement could possibly result in decreased property taxes for residents.

Boston Heights officials were also optimistic that the agreement will be positive for the community.

“The agreement delivers on Council’s promise to the residents for a full-time ambulance in the village fire station,” said Council President Dan Polyak. “By responding out of Boston Heights’ fire station, our ambulance response times should be cut almost in half. Lives will be saved.”

Riedel said the agreement represents a great achievement for the better for the three communities.

“This is a win,” he said. “It’s three similar communities working together. You hear so much of the negative stuff about people not working together. This is the community getting together and focusing on a problem, and the residents are the ones who will win in this.”

The communities plan to host an open house at the Boston Heights station later in September, Riedel said.

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