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Four firefighters get six-month reprieve

HEBRON – Four full-time Hebron firefighters learned Wednesday that their full-time jobs are safe for at least six months.

The former part-time firefighters were moved to full-time status in 2014 after Hebron received a $600,000 SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response ) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The grant’s initial term ran out last week even though Hebron had spent less than $400,000 of the grant.

Fire Chief Jack Stickradt, Jr. said village officials knew the initial term would run out before all the allocation was spent. He said FEMA advised that they wait until November to seek an extension.

When the term expired without a decision on the village’s extension request, Mayor Mike McFarland explained “We didn’t want to withhold any information from them.” He didn’t want any of the four to turn down a full-time opportunity with another department. The four were told they could lose their fulltime jobs this month if the extension wasn’t approved. The cost for the four is roughly $170,000 for six months and the 2017 budget recently approved by council doesn’t allocate local funds to fund the full-time positions.

McFarland said that when council accepted the grant in 2014, the four new full-time firefighters knew that status was contingent on the grant. About a dozen firefighters were present at Wednesday night’s council meeting, but none addressed council. Several of the affected firefighters had said earlier that the possible loss of their fulltime status caught them off guard.

“I think everyone would like to keep all four full-time firefighters,” McFarland added Wednesday night. The FEMA extension extends the grant for another six months to May 5, 2017, including the payments the village has made since the expiration. Stickradt said there still may be $50,000 – $60,000 left from the allocation when the extension expires. Hebron is asking for an additional extension that would allow them to spend the entire $600,000 allocation.

In his report to council, Stickradt said he looked at the SAFER grant as “a spark plug.” He believed that once the village got used to a higher level of service money would be found to keep it.

He now recognizes that the sale hasn’t yet been made. He pledged to work with council’s Safety Committee to demonstrate some of the “advances” the department has made over the last two years. He also wants to explore other options to fund the positions with the committee.

“It was a good department when I got here,” he said. “I think it is a better department now.”

Council members unanimously agreed to continue the full-time employment of the four firefighters through the end of the grant. McFarland said the grant pays their base pay and benefits, but not overtime. “The four can not work overtime,” he said. McFarland said if they ultimately lose their full-time status, all four could work part-time.

Council members spent about 30 minutes in an executive session to discuss personnel issues related to the SAFER grant. No action was taken when they returned.

In other business Wednesday night, Mc- Farland administered the oath of office to the village’s new Utility Billing Coordinator. Angela McVicker has several years of banking experience, most recently at Peoples National Bank in Thornport.

In his report, Village Administrator Ralph Wise said he negotiated a rate reduction – from $75 a month to $60 per month – with the Licking County Humane Society due to the reduced number of animal complaint calls in Hebron. There were five calls this year.

He also reported that marketing brochures for the 50-unit workforce housing development known as Hopewell Cottages should be available by the end of the year. Leasing should start in late January or early February. Rents are expected to range from $600 a month for a one bedroom to $800 a month for a three bedroom unit. Rent includes trash pickup and water and sewer. Council member Annelle Porter said it looks like a nice development. “I think it will be a nice addition to Hebron,” McFarland added.

Wise said Ohio EPA has given the village a $20,400 grant to purchase a new pesticide sprayer for mosquitoes. There is no match except the village is responsible for any cost above $20,400. He said administrative assistant Christina Furbee and Street Superintendent Dave Medley wrote the grant.

He said a meeting is set for Dec. 16 with Adkins Disposal to review village requirements for the three-year contract awarded earlier this year for residential waste collection. The new contract starts Feb. 1 and the company’s introductory letter will be included with the January water and sewer bills.

Wise reported that American Electric Power will be trimming some trees in Hebron starting in January. Limbs will be removed on South High Street near the water treatment plant and near Canal Park. A few trees on Main Street and by the substation on Refugee Road will also be trimmed.

He also said the village’s liability insurance with the Ohio Plan has been renewed for a $42,295 annual premium. Wise said the village saved more than $7,000 by receiving all 100 points for loss ratio and risk management criteria. The annual premium increased $1,300 but the village is still paying less than the nearly $48,000 paid in 2011.

In his report, McFarland said he is seeking some help on landscape design for the village’s lot at Main and High streets from a Licking County Planning Commission staff member,

Council members scheduled the annual reorganizational meeting for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 11. The village administrative office will close at 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23 and Friday, Dec. 30.

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