Fire department fires back
BUCKEYE LAKE- Buckeye Lake Fire Department personnel responded to criticism following an in-depth study by The Beacon revealing large gaps in the department’s staffing schedule that affect response times.
“You can’t tell the truth when you only tell one side of the story,” said Buckeye Lake Fire Chief Pete Leindecker. “We never told people (staffing) will be 24/7.” He said the Buckeye Lake station is staffed with volunteers and part-timers and there will be gaps in the schedule.
Leindecker is concerned the controversy currently surrounding the department would affect how people vote for a November five mills, five year fire levy. He said the village would lose the improved ISO insurance rating it achieved when public water became available. He also warned the village would have to contract elsewhere for emergency service, which would increase taxes.
“We are continuing to have dialogue with the fire department so that we can understand their challenges and help them in any way we can to continue to improve fire and emergency medical services in our village,” said council president Charlene Hayden. She said Mayor Rick Baker, who was absent from Monday night’s meeting, added three more members to a committee created to review the fire department – Columbus firefighter Doug Sanderson, former Millersport Fire Chief and current Walnut Township Trustee Bill Yates and Union Township Trustee Rick Black.
Baker had earlier named Buckeye Lake resident and Columbus firefighter John Julian, Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason, resident Paul Clark, and Lancaster Safety and Service Director Mike Courtney.
Mason told The Beacon Wednesday night that the group had its first meeting Sunday afternoon with Mason, Julian, Clark, Black and Baker attending.
Council member Jeryne Peterson said all council members are aware of the fire department’s issues. “We’re not ignoring it,” she said. Peterson believes the fire department could have a full-time staff and urged residents to approve the upcoming levy. “You’re not voting for people, you’re voting for the jobs being done,” she said.
“We are a volunteer department,” said council member Arletta Ruton, adding that she’s served with the Buckeye Lake Fire Department for 16 years. She said all departments have their own issues, and Buckeye Lake is no exception. “You have to look at the full issue,” said Ruton. “I chose to put my life on the line for someone else. We’re proud of what we do.” She said volunteers have watched people die before their eyes and witnessed incidents of severe abuse. “This is what your volunteers do every day.”
Ruton said people are only receiving partial information about the current state of the department and she urged residents to visit the department for themselves. She said she disagreed with an observation that Leindecker referred to a meeting with Hayden, Baker, and others to discuss the department’s scheduling issues as a “joke.” She said she and others with him the evening following the meeting never heard him refer to the meeting in that manner. “Pete, my confidence goes to you,” she said.
In other village news,
• Baker appointed former mayoral candidate Barry Herron to replace former council member Patrick Brighton. Baker defeated Herron in the mayor’s race nearly three years ago. Resident Kitty Zwissler also applied for the position. Council members couldn’t decide who should replace Brighton, leaving the decision to Baker. Only five council members were present at the Sept. 10 meeting with Ruton absent. Council members concluded that according to the village charter, four votes are required for a candidate to be appointed to an open position.
Following a secret ballot that included a signature line, Herron received three votes and Zwissler two, meaning neither candidate had enough votes to be appointed. Council members said they could either hold a special meeting with all remaining members present to fill the position or hand the decision to Baker to make at a later time. They opted for the latter.
• Buckeye Lake Trick or Treat and Trunk or Treat is Wednesday, Oct. 31, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
• LEADS CEO Kenneth Kempton said there is no Section 8 housing coming to Buckeye Lake Village.
“LEADS is working with (Baker) and (Development Director Mike Cassidy) and we have spoken to members of the village council about existing vacant lots and tearing down abandoned structures to build single family homes,” he said. Kempton said these homes would be required to meet building standards that require minimum square footage, quality building materials and practical design to maximize energy efficiency.
“The Mayor has also indicated he would like an interior and exterior design that will meet local community expectations,” he said. Kempton said these homes would require occupants to agree to a rent to own contract that would make them responsible for the repair and upkeep of the property. LEADS and other funding agencies would conduct regular inspections of the properties to ensure proper maintenance and repairs are being completed.
“We are also researching the possibility of additional housing for seniors similar to the LEADS apartments in Hebron and Johnstown,” said Kempton. The design is an energy efficient one story with garage and floor plans that meet the needs of seniors.
“Presently we are completing some preliminary research that must be done to determine if building single family homes and senior housing in Buckeye Lake is even feasible,” said Kempton. “LEADS does not utilize Section 8 funding to build any of our projects across the State of Ohio and Section 8 housing funds would not be used in Buckeye Lake.”
• Hayden said there was good attendance at a Sept. 12 public meeting to discuss a potential healthcare facility in Buckeye Lake Village. Fairfield Medical Center President and CEO Mina Ubbing hosted the meeting. Hayden said attendees believed an urgent care facility would benefit the village the most. She said Ubbing believes the village’s low average income may qualify it for financial help to construct a medical facility and stock it with the necessary equipment. Ubbing said she would return in 60 days to discuss her findings and possibly offer suggestions.
• Hayden said the Buckeye Lake Youth Association is sponsoring a Community Appreciation Day Oct. 6, 5 to 8 p.m. at the youth association building featuring an Elvis impersonator, followed by the Fire Prevention Parade Oct. 7, 1 p.m. A free public dinner follows the parade at the fire station.