BUCKEYE LAKE – A public meeting about EMS options and the Buckeye Lake Fire Department’s future has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 23, at the Buckeye Lake Fire Department building.
“It’s really kind of a ‘facts’ thing,” said Mayor Rick Baker. Council clerk Valerie Hans notices it as a Public Safety Committee meeting.
Council President Charlene Hayden said at this point in the planning, there would not be a public comment time during the meeting. There will be handouts available for public comment and questions. “It hasn’t been decided yet if we will collect the comment sheets after the meeting, or just have residents drop it off at the Village Office,” she said. “I personally think we should take the comment sheet after the meeting, or have people drop it in a box after the meeting if they wish. This option helps those who have transportation issues.” Hayden said. If some people wish to think more about the situation, they have the option of dropping the comment sheet off at the office.
“We should have our plans pretty well finalized by the end of this week,” said Hayden. “This meeting is meant to give the residents the facts about our safety services and to show the options that could be available to them if the levy passes or if the levy fails. It is not going to be a venue for a few residents to air their grievances.”
A continuing in-depth study starting in mid-August last year by The Beacon revealed large gaps in the department’s part-time paid staffing schedule and practices that affect response times and patient care.
Previously Baker said, “We are going to look at Hebron, and then others such as Millersport or private firms. All depends on what is affordable.” Safety Committee chair Clay Carroll has echoed Baker, claiming several times that he is waiting to hear from Millersport. That’s going to be a long wait since both Millersport Fire Chief Matt Bergum and Mayor Dean Severance confirmed to The Beacon Tuesday night that they have NOT been contacted about providing EMS services to Buckeye Lake or developing a proposal to provide such services.
Baker and Carroll have met twice with Hebron’s Safety Committee about the possibility of contracting for EMS services. They last met on April 12 when Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason and Village Administrator Ralph Wise presented three EMS/fire contract options for Buckeye Lake’s consideration. Two of the three can be done with Buckeye Lake’s current resources – no tax increase required.
Option 3 is the least expensive and the easiest to quickly implement.
This proposal would add one additional part-time firefighter/ EMT 24/7/365 to its on-station staff. Buckeye Lake would pay the additional cost of $110,750 a year. Hebron would hire, equip and manage the additional part-time employees necessary to fill the new slot 24/7/365. Hebron would then be immediately dispatched for any EMS/fire calls from Buckeye Lake Village.
The other two options involve Hebron stationing two EMT’s in the Buckeye Lake Fire Station. While that might cut response time a minute or two, both are more costly and would take more time to work out as some legal issues such as Hebron employees using Buckeye Lake equipment and how to address workers compensation issues.
Monday night, Baker read the first update regarding changes to fire department operations per Baker and Carroll’s request.
The report states that, “Starting in March of 2013 discussions were held about how to fix operational problems with the fire department when it comes to shift coverage, run coverage, and overall staffing.” According to the report, the department has so far updated EMS policy, changed its organizational chart, updated part-time policy, implemented a new non-resident volunteer policy, interviewed and hired six new part-time employees, reorganized its new hire training program, implemented a new schedule and part-time staff management system, and purchased a new paging program, among other changes.
According to the report, April was the first month the changes were implemented and the report states that dispatch to on scene response time was 4:54 min. and there were 66 runs in April with 10 mutual aid received. Out of 90 shifts for April, ALS covered 62.2 percent, there were six open unscheduled shifts, and volunteers signed up for eight overnight shifts. Four new part-timers were trained, the May schedule was completely filled with the addition of new hires, and volunteers responded to 44 April calls.
Former council member Peggy Wells highlighted a continuing problem, detailing the department’s response to a May convulsions/ seizures call in the Myers Addition. Based on the 9-1-1 Center’s database and a copy of the radio traffic on call, she said a full Buckeye Lake crew had been at Licking Memorial for about 13 minutes after transporting a ‘heart problems’ patient when the call came in. According to the tape, the Buckeye Lake crew chief asks if Buckeye Lake had responded to the new call. Told no, he asked that Hebron be dispatched for mutual aid. That request was soon overridden by Capt. Dave Ruton who said he is responding as a first responder (solo card holder).
Wells said she spoke to the family who said a squad arrived in about seven minutes, but “nothing much happened at that point.” The crew responding from the hospital arrived nearly 16 minutes after the initial dispatch. The family complimented that crew. Wells questioned cancelling the mutual aid request and forcing the family to wait nearly 16 minutes.
In other council news:
• Director of Development Mike Cassidy said an I-70/Ohio 79 interchange construction project would not interfere with the village’s Fourth of July celebrations. “They’re going to change the interchange completely,” he said, with a $2.3 million renovation beginning early June and wrapping up, weather permitting, in October.
“It’s going to be a busy summer,” said ODOT District 5 Planning Engineer Ty Thompson. He said the interchange reconstruction project would be completed in six phases. According to the District 5 web site, the I-70/Ohio 79 interchange is a full cloverleaf interchange, which requires vehicles to maneuver between traffic exiting and entering the highway, causing some severe sideswipe and run-off-the-road crashes.
The southeast exit loop and northwest exit loop ramps will be removed. The remaining exit ramps will be signalized to service all turning movements and turn lanes will be constructed on the exit ramps to accommodate future traffic volumes.
In other words, I-70 eastbound traffic will exit on the ramp that currently handles only traffic going to the Village of Buckeye Lake. When the project is complete, all eastbound traffic to Ohio 79 will use that exit and, under direction of a traffic signal, will turn either direction to go toward Buckeye Lake or Hebron.
Similarly, all westbound I-70 traffic exiting to Ohio 79 will use the ramp that currently directs traffic toward Hebron. A new traffic light will allow that traffic to go either to Buckeye Lake or Hebron.
Thompson said there will be ramp closures during construction, but no more than one ramp will be closed at a time and closures will last one to two weeks each. Also, ODOT will repair and improve six bridges within the interchange’s immediate vicinity. Thompson said the project won’t have much impact on I-70 traffic, and much of what will impact I-70 would be completed at night.
Thompson said there would always be one lane of traffic open both directions on Ohio 79. “You’ll be able to get back and forth,” he said.
• Council President Charlene Hayden said the planning commission officially changed its meeting date to the second Tuesday of the month. Its June meeting is June 11. She said the meetings were interfering with Mayor’s Court.
• Council approved Police Chief James Hanzey’s request to certify a Buckeye Lake officer in weapons training so other officers do not have to seek training outside of the village. “It’s going to save the village a lot of money in the long run,” he said. “I’d like to make the department selfsufficient.”
• Council decided the annual no permits-required garage sale weekend will be June 7 through 9.