BUCKEYE LAKE – Columbus firefighter John Julian, who serves on Buckeye Lake Village’s fire department advisory committee, has submitted a written version of the oral report he presented to the Buckeye Lake Village Council Nov. 12.
According to Julian’s report, “our committee was formed as a result of the articles that appeared in the Beacon Newspaper. The committee was chosen by (Mayor Rick Baker) to independently investigate written concerns and comments that have been made at recent council meetings about the BLFD and its employees. We have reviewed stories that were written in the Beacon, we have met with (Buckeye Lake Fire Chief Pete Leindecker) and a large group of firefighters at the firehouse and we have also met with Mayor Baker and several council members. From these meetings we have heard and listened to concerns, opinions, and thoughts and have compiled a draft of what suggestions we think need to be implemented to help improve the efficiency of the BLFD on their response to both fire and EMS runs.”
The report says, “One of the main concerns was the lack of staffing; there were some unfulfilled shifts in the past. The main reason for the shortage was that four part time employees resigned. (Liendecker) has hired five new part time employees to cover these shortages. Filling these positions with a qualified person is a time consuming process. Each applicant must be thoroughly investigated and trained in the BLFD protocol before being placed on a vehicle.”
Regarding communication, “we have discussed a lack of effective communication from both the village council and the chief. The Council needs to inform (Liendecker) of their needs and expectations. The chief also needs to report issues and concerns as they happen. The chief also needs to inform council monthly of all staffing issues, training, and run responses, which include how many runs and the type of run.”
The committee reviewed fire department personnel’s certifications “and we strongly suggest to (Baker) and the council that they request and obtain the certification levels of all personnel that are members of the BLFD.”
“This committee is completely in agreement that mutual aide should be sent after three minutes if there is not appropriate equipment responding from the BLFD. (Liendecker) should have the authority to request this from the Licking County 911 Center.
“Research has confirmed that there are grants and grant money available to assist with training, staffing, equipment, and recruitment retention of volunteers. The chief and the village officials need to be working together to obtain any and all grants available.
“We feel if these suggestions are followed the people of Buckeye Lake will receive quality care from all members of the BLFD. This committee has agreed to continue to review the actions of both the council and the BLFD to help improve service. We do feel the department operates efficiently on the budget they have and we have found everyone willing to talk about issues and concerns and a desire to improve the service they provide. The Village of Buckeye Lake should be proud of the men and women of the BLFD.”
Baker said the suggestions will be sent to Village Council’s safety committee to develop procedures to implement them.
Council President Charlene Hayden said some suggestions have already been implemented. “Unless something has changed within the past few days, (Leindecker) has secured enough staff to cover shifts as best he can with the money we have,” she said in a statement. “He lost four people in May and now has hired five new people.” She said better communications between the chief, the fire department, council, and the mayor is a work in progress. “The mayor asked for better communication in the directives he gave to the chief before the committee was formed. I feel the lines of communication are much better from everyone’s perspective,” said Hayden. “The other items are either being addressed now, or will be addressed in the very near future.” She said due to other pressing issues, there has not yet been a public safety committee meeting to discuss the situation further, but a meeting will take place in the near future.
“I think the most important statement the committee made is, ‘We do feel the department operates efficiently on the budget they have and we have found everyone willing to talk about issues and concerns and a desire to improve the service they provide. The Village of Buckeye Lake should be proud of the men and women of the BLFD,’” said Hayden.
“I think we have had a group of volunteers who have given a lot of time out of their lives to help the residents of the village by providing fire and emergency medical services.” She said those on the fire department are paid a very small amount of money – between $10 and $12 an hour – and risk their lives and health to put out fires and help people in need of medical attention.
“I could get more graphic than this, but paramedics and EMTs are exposed to all types of bodily fluids, they are asked to go into homes with deplorable living conditions, and they are asked to deal with people who are violent, and, yet, they agree to do their job for little pay and very little respect, at least from this community,” said Hayden. She said that after all these people give, it is a sad commentary that 491 community residents voted not to support a five mills, five year fire levy.
“Thank goodness for the 390 people who supported the fire levy,” said Hayden. “I’m sure that our fire and EMS volunteers and employees appreciate the vote of confidence from that many people in the village.”