2010-02-06 / News

Fire company sets run record in 2009

By Charles Prince

JACKSONTOWN – Licking Township Fire Company made a record 1,037 runs in 2009, Fire Chief Mike Wilson told trustees Monday night. That was six more runs than in 2008.

Another record was also set in 2009. Twenty-two times in 2009, the company couldn’t get a crew out, which means a mutual aid department made that run. Of those 22 calls for service, nine occurred when the company already had a crew on another run. Wilson estimated some 150 calls came in while a crew was on another run or returning from the hospital. The fire company relies on volunteers and part-time paid personnel to make runs. Currently, the fulltime chief and a part-time paid EMT/paramedic are on duty from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Two paid part-time EMT/ paramedics are on duty from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights. Volunteers back up the paid staff during their duty hours and provide total coverage the rest of the time.

Last year paid personnel handled 596 or 57 percent of the runs. That was up slightly from 55 percent in 2008 and 53 percent in 2007. Wilson attributes that increase in part to the fire company’s changing demographics. The fire company started in 1995, nearly 15 years ago. Wilson and some other charter members are now 15 years older with less energy and many more outside responsibilities. The current recession has also affected volunteer participation as some volunteers have been forced to change shifts to keep their jobs or take on part-time jobs to make up for lost overtime etc. He was pleased to report that five new members joined the department last year.

Wilson is particularly concerned about the 22 no crew available calls which is up from 15 in 2008 and 13 in 2007. The fire company still provided more mutual aid in 2009 – 267 times – compared to mutual aid received – 201 times. But he believes that trustees will have to ask residents again to approve an additional fire levy to provide 24/7 on station coverage in order to provide the service residents now expect. Voters narrowly turned down an additional 3 mill permanent fire levy in November 2008.

Response statistics, which exclude mutual aid runs, highlight the value of on-station personnel. In 2009, paid personnel were able to respond in an average of 1.62 minutes with an on-scene average of 7.39 minutes, compared to a 5.37 minute response average and a 10.98 minute on-scene average for the 43 percent of the runs handled by volunteers. The averages in 2008 were similar – paid runs were 1.67 minute response and 7.52 minute on-scene, compared to volunteer runs at 5.13 minute and 10.37 minute.

Wilson told trustees that three members completed the EMTBasic course while two passed the tough Paramedic test. One member obtained a 36-hour firefighter certification while another obtained a 84-hour firefighter card. Three members obtained the professional level, 240-hour firefighter certification.

The fire company received four grants in 2009 – $5,000 for training, $4,500 for equipment, $5,000 for grass fire gear and $2,300 for hardware/software upgrades. Three additional applications for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants are pending – $132,000 for 35-40 turnout gear sets and a special washer/dryer to properly maintain them; $250,000 to hire full-time personnel for two years; and $1.5 million for fire station construction.

Wilson said the department carried over approximately $191,000 in its budget from 2009 to 2010, compared to $144,000 from 2008 to 2009. That carryover would cover the cost of paid personnel at current staffing levels for about a year.

Wilson reported 102 runs in January – 92 EMS and 10 fire. That’s just three less than the company’s all-time monthly record of 105 set in July 2008. “We’re right back in it,” he said.

In other business Monday night, Trustee President Joe Hart explained that the county property tax bills received last week are very confusing, due to a printing error. “The bills are right,” he said. “It’s the distribution that is wrong.” Hart said all the township’s millage is shown on the bills as going to the fire company when the fire company really has just two one-mill levies. Hart said county officials told him the allocations will be corrected on the second half bills which will be out this summer.

During an extended public comment, Charles Crumb Jr., who owns the Avondale Marina just east of Papa Boo’s, told trustees he has worked out an agreement with his neighbor, Mark Ricketts to provide alternative access across his property for Ricketts. Crumb is seeking trustees help on how to give Ricketts access across a previously vacated road. That agreement, Crumb believes resolves the issue about Lake Drive that nearly splits his property.

“You have a series of compounded problems,” Hart told Crumb. “Our position is that it (Lake Drive) is a township maintained road.” Both Hart and Trustee Dave Miller questioned whether a vacated road could ever be reopened.

Hart added that there is plenty of evidence that area in question is a township road. “I’m not in favor of trading (a township road) for a driveway for Mark Ricketts,” he said. All three trustees agree that it is a township road. Miller will discuss the issue with County Engineer Tim Lollo and assistant county prosecutor Jim Miller before the next trustees meeting.

Hart also told Crumb that Papa Boo’s owner Jason Biggs had called him about the possibility of buying Crumb’s property. Hart said he told Biggs the property is zoned residential as is most of the Papa Boo’s property. Crumb can continue to operate the existing marina, but any expansion of the existing building or a new building for his hoped for restaurant would require a zoning change to commercial.

Crumb protested, saying the site has been commercial for years and noting that he is paying commercial property taxes. Biggs told Hart the same thing when he learned most of his property is zoned residential. “Your taxes are not zoning,” Hart said.

“I’m trying to be factual with you and it is hard for you to accept,” Hart told a visibly upset Crumb. Zoning Inspector Joe Walker agreed with Hart, telling Crumb the first step should be to seek commercial zoning. “We have to abide by the law like you do,” Walker said.

Trustees’ next regular meeting will be pushed to Tuesday, Feb. 16 due to the Presidents’ Day holiday. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Licking Fire Company’s Station 3 on Jacksontown Road (Ohio 13).

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