2011-04-16 / News

Trustees discuss fire department with Thurston Council

By Charles Prince

THURSTON – The long awaited meeting between the coowners of the Thurston Walnut Township Fire Department wasn’t a love fest.

Walnut Township and the Village of Thurston each own 50 percent of the department. Trustees Terry Horn and Ralph Zollinger met with Thuston’s Safety Committee on April 6. Trustee Sonny Dupler was recovering from a medical procedure.

Several contentious issues arose as Horn went over his list of information that both parties should have. The first one was the department’s 2011 budget.

“I don’t think I have an updated budget,” Horn told council members. “We are waiting for you (trustees) to give us one,” village fiscal officer Aaron Reedy responded.

Late last year, trustees allocated 65 percent of their net fire levy revenue to their contract with the Village of Millersport to operate the Fairfield Beach and Millersport fire stations. That left 35 percent for the co-owned Thurston Walnut Township Fire Department which operates the Thurston station.

“We know what you are going to give us,” Reedy added. “But we still have money left from previous years.”

Horn acknowledged that Thurston got less than anticipated when Millersport’s allocation was increased to 65 percent. He believes that EMS billing will make up Thurston’s loss.

Horn also asked for a five year financial plan for the department.

“It is hard to plan when you don’t know what your revenue is,” safety chair Jimmy Barber said.

“We have to make it through one year before we can look beyond that,” Mayor Mary Boring added.

Horn suggested discounting projected EMS billing revenue by 20 percent and then using that amount and their township allocation to develop a five year plan. Then he was told that a revised budget had been submitted after Thurston’s allocation was cut. Horn didn’t get it so Fire Chief Jim Hite will get him a copy.

“Budgeting is estimating and we can do it,” Reedy said. “It (five year plan) is almost like a wish list.” Barber promised to have a five year plan after the June 8 council meeting.

Several times Thurston officials questioned whether Horn’s information requests were personal or on behalf of the township. Reedy asked Zolllinger if trustees wanted a five year plan. “Yes,” Zollinger responded.

Horn asked about the status of the update for the department’s policies and procedures. Hite confirmed that some are being redone and should be done in a couple of months.

“We are the administrative arm of this agreement and the records are here,” Reedy told Horn. He added that Thurston will not provide duplicate records, but will respond to individual requests for information.

“I don’t have a report on the rescue accident,” Horn said.

“The chief doesn’t do a report on every incident,” Boring responded.

“I would expect more than a two-sentence report,” Horn added, noting that there was a personal injury and significant damage to the truck.

“I just waned a summary report of what happened,” Horn said. Instead he got 315 pages of mostly insurance information. “What happened at the scene?” he asked. “I just finished it,” Hite told him.

Horn then told council members that there is a unresolved issue from the Musser Road fire. That issue, he explained, are the letters attached to the report from Hite and Lt. Lt. Jason Majoros.

Boring blamed Horn for the undated letters becoming public. “That is nothing on my chief or fire department,” she said. Boring said only the incident report went to the state.

“We never had this problem until you were elected,” Boring added.

“That was a fire department issue,” Barber said referring to some events that nearly caused serious or fatal injuries to three firefighters caught on the second floor of the home without water. “It doesn’t involve trustees or council. It is not a politician issue. It should be resolved between the two departments.”

“You requested a report that should not have gone public,” Boring told Horn.

“That is between the fire chiefs,” Barber maintained. “I will ask Chief Hite to contact Bobby Price (Millersport Assistant Fire Chief and Columbus Fire Division Captain) and work this out.”

Horn said that was fine with him.

“We have been meeting and discussing the issues that came out of the Musser Road fire,” Hite said. Hite wasn’t at the scene and Price said at the March 22 trustees meeting that Hite’s report should have consisted of four words – “I was not there.”

“We need to manage the politics,” Barber said. “The fire chiefs need to manage the departments.”

“My motive is to understand the process,” Horn said. “Musser Road did get brought up at a trustees meeting”

“The problems between the two departments need to be worked out at the department level,” Barber said.

Horn asked about the status of selecting a new assistant chief for the department. “That is a fire department issue until he brings it to us,” Barber maintained.

Hite reported that he has received a medical release to return to work and will resume going to the twice monthly trustee meetings.

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