BUCKEYE LAKE – Village Council’s Public Safety Committee held a one-hour meeting Tuesday night at the fire station to discuss the fire department advisory committee’s recommendations.
EMS coordinator and Captain Dave Ruton was the only officer present. Assistant Chief Rod Riley and Captain Toby Miller arrived a couple of minutes before the committee adjourned. Fire Chief Pete Leindecker was said to be “working” when resident Judie Cook asked where he was.
Mayor Rick Baker, Council President Charlene Hayden and council members Gerry Neff and Barry Herron were present in addition to committee chair Clay Carroll and members Kaye Hartman and Arletta Ruton.
Carroll listed three items on the agenda – report information, request for mutual aid and staffing. He expects the first two can be “put to bed fairly quickly.”
Most of the hour was spent on expanding the reports to council. Hartman wants issues channeled first through the appropriate committee before it comes before council for a vote. She wants the Finance Committee to be reviewing and approving expenditures before they are made. “I want to know before I get the report from Vince (fiscal officer Vince Popo) that it is done,” Hartman emphasized. “We need more checks and balances.” She also wants the department to report what they didn’t do (requests for mutual aid etc.).
Members discussed where firefighter certification records should be kept – at the station or at village hall and how frequently training should be tracked.
Committee members eventually settled on adding three or four items to the existing monthly report from the chief, creating a new monthly report detailing expected expenditures to the Finance Committee and a new quarterly report on training and certification.
Baker revealed that a letter had finally been sent to the Licking County 9-1-1 Center requesting that mutual aid be dispatched after three minutes if Buckeye Lake doesn’t respond or have a legal crew (at least two EMT-Basics to transport). Capt. Ruton, who also works at the 9-1-1 Center, said both his bosses are out of town for training this week and next which could delay a decision on the request. However, EMA Director Jeff Walker, who also has responsibility for the 9-1-1 Center, is in town.
“That (the letter) should have been done a long time ago,” Hartman told Baker. “I was waiting on the advisory committee,” he responded.
Reducing a six to eight minute wait to dispatch mutual aid to three minutes was one of the 17 administrative directives Baker gave Leindecker on Sept. 6. Little more was said on the subject beyond waiting to hear from Walker or Center Director Kevin Carver.
The Beacon contacted Walker Wednesday morning. He said the request had been passed on to the Licking County Fire Chiefs Association. Walker emphasized the need for consistency across all 17 fire departments in Licking County. “We just ask that it be consistent,” he said. The Center averages 188 calls a day, Walker added and changing the dispatch protocol for Buckeye Lake could actually delay response further.
Heath Fire Chief Mark Huggins is the current president of the fire chiefs association. The association won’t meet again until January when Granville Township Fire Chief Jeff Hussey takes over as president.
Huggins told The Beacon Wednesday that he hadn’t heard anything about Buckeye Lake’s request. He is familiar with The Beacon’s reports on the department.
Huggins thought the request might have gone directly to the association’s 911 Center oversight committee. He said Hussey is a member of that group.
“You want consistency, yes,” Huggins said. “But you’ve got to look at the circumstances. The public comes first.”
“You’ve got to look for what’s best for the person who needs help,” he added. “The patient comes first.”
He believes a reduced mutual aid wait time for Buckeye Lake could be programmed into the 9-1-1 Center CAD system. “It can’t be that difficult.”
“It’s all about the patient,” Huggins added. “You do what is best for the patient.”
Huggins’ comments are very refreshing. No Buckeye Lake Village officials, elected or appointed, have voiced a “patient first” focus since The Beacon started pointing out the department’s critical deficiencies in mid-August. Rather, it’s been a collection of excuses, outright lies, attacks on the messenger and efforts to snow voters. Not once Tuesday night did any village official ask what could be done NOW to improve service to patients. More time was spent on where the certification files should be stored and whether there is enough room in village hall filing cabinets to keep them there.
The focus on petty issues was prominently displayed during the discussion on when to schedule the committee’s next meeting. Capt. Ruton said Leindecker, Riley, Miller and he are planning to meet this Thursday to discuss budget issues for the Finance Committee. Carroll suggested meeting the following Thursday, but wanted to be sure Leindecker would be available. Capt. Ruton said Leindecker is off on Thursdays, but might not be available because he likes to eat out that night with his wife. That was too much for Hartman who said he could eat after the meeting.
The Beacon also contacted Hussey Wednesday. He too is unaware of Buckeye Lake’s request, but has been following the issues in The Beacon.
In his email response, Hussey said he is a member of the 9-1-1 Center Oversight Committee that typically meets quarterly or more often if needed. “If we are requested, I would assume we can meet within a week or so to opine on the matter,” he wrote.
“There is sometimes a conflict between local need vs. across the board consistency within the 911 Center. We typically try to find solutions that can be applied across the board. This issue may also be relevant to a few other departments in the county right now, so we will certainly look for solutions that work well county-wide. We are always focused on the best practices for public safety, so it is possible we would recommend some change specific to Buckeye Lake if needed,” he continued.
Capt. Ruton’s role in this forthcoming decision should be closely monitored. He’s a critical part of the department’s leadership that appears more focused on saving runs than lives. His position as Technical Coordinator for the 9-1-1 Center gives him the ability to influence both Walker and Carver on their willingness to make changes for one or just a couple of departments. He may be able to kill or slow changes with claims about technical difficulties in implementing them.
Cutting the waiting time for mutual aid will cost Buckeye Lake runs AND improve service for patients.