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Licking Township to try again for 24/7 EMS/fire coverage

JACKSONTOWN – Nearly seven years after voters narrowly rejected an additional three mill fire levy by 58 votes, Licking Township Trustees unanimously agreed Monday night to try again.

Like the 2008 levy, this November’s levy would allow the Licking Township Fire Company to provide 24/7 on-station coverage at its Jacksontown station. The company is currently funded by two one-mill five-year fire levies that raise approximately $270,000 a year. The township’s two mills for EMS/fire services is the lowest in the lake area and one of the lowest in Licking County.

Fire Chief Mike Wilson is the company’s only full-time employee and would keep that distinction if voters approve the additional levy. Current onstation coverage is:

• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday: Wilson and one paid part-time firefighter;

• 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday: One paid parttime firefighter. Adding this person was the most recent addition to the paid staff. While one person can not transport a patient in a medic nor enter a burning building, Wilson said they can drive a medic or engine to the scene and begin providing assistance rather than waiting at the station for volunteers to arrive.

• 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday: two paid parttime firefighters; and

• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Franklin Township Station on Flintridge Road: two part-time firefighters. Franklin Township reimburses Licking Township for these hours. This crew does run into Licking Township during their weekend hours as does Licking Township respond in most of Franklin Township when no one is at the Franklin Township station.

The fire company had a total of 685 runs in 2002 when paid part-timers were first hired. In recent years, runs have averaged about 1,100 a year. Monday night, Wilson reported 96 runs in June (72 EMS and 24 Fire) with a year-to-date total of 557. He said runs this year are about 20 ahead of this time last year.

The fire company has a total of about 30 volunteers who are also filling the part-time slots. Wilson told The Beacon that about half of the volunteers are carrying most of the load. He explained that work, school and family commitments limit the hours volunteers can donate.

Run records demonstrate what Wilson calls “the strain on volunteers.” A paid two-man crew by themselves handled 179 of the 1,059 runs last year or just 17 percent. Volunteers were needed – either to supplement a one man part-time crew or to handle the run exclusively – on 880 runs or a whopping 83 percent.

Response times are affected by the heavy reliance on volunteers. In 2014:

• Volunteers averaged five minutes, five seconds to get out the door and arrived on the scene on average in 10 minutes, 55 seconds.

• With paid staff on station, the out-the-door average was one minute, 44 seconds with an on-the-scene average of seven minutes, 36 seconds. On average, on-station staff get to the scene about 44 percent faster. That quicker response can be the difference between life and death for medical emergencies and being able to save a structure as opposed to just saving nearby structures.

If voters approve the additional three mills on Nov. 3, Wilson will add three part-time firefighters 24/7 at the Jacksontown station. He will continue to be the company’s only full-time employee. Two of the three part-time positions would be restricted to paramedics, which would allow the department to staff two medic runs at the same time or back-to-back during Wilson’s 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekday work week. The 24/7 three-person staffing meets the minimum staffing level to enter a burning structure without having to wait for volunteers or mutual aide.

The additional three mills will cover all staffing costs except Wilson’s salary which will continue to come out the existing two one-mill levies. The balance will be used for capital equipment replacements such as replacing a medic or improvements like up-dated cardiac monitors or rescue equipment.

Trustees agree that the company needs more money to increase on-station coverage and reduce the “strain” on volunteers. Monday night, President Joe Hart said one of the options explored was EMS billing for non-township residents which was estimated to bring in about $30,000 a year. They knew they would lose the ben- efit of free replacement drugs from the hospital on those runs, but discovered they would lose it for all runs whether billed or not. The cost of paying for drugs was $21,000, cutting the pickup from EMS billing to just $9,000. Trustee John Holman said they checked on the legality of assessing some type of surcharge on the concerts at Legend Valley. That wasn’t legal, Holman said.

Trustees also questioned whether two mills would be enough additional revenue. Wilson strongly supported asking for three mills. He said the department wouldn’t have to go back to voters for some time. It would also avoid pushing the company into a ‘crisis mode’ should voters reject one of the two onemill levies.

“I would love to say two mills will work,” Wilson said. “The three-mill will be harder to sell, but it is what we need.” Both Hart and Holman said they would support whatever Wilson recommended. “If you want three mills, I will support you,” Trustee Dave Miller added.

Trustees also discussed a new fire station. The primary station behind the Jacksontown United Methodist Church is inadequate and doesn’t have any living quarters. The current 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. overnight crew moves down to the former Licking Township Fire Department building along Ohio 13. It has limited sleeping quarters and a very small kitchen.

The new fire station will be built with some of the township’s $3 million inheritance tax windfall that it received in 2011.

“I would love to have a new fire station,” Wilson said. “But I need the personnel to respond. I would rather have the people here (on-station).”

“That building will be more than just for the fire department,” Holman said. “It should include a community room or community center.” The current fire station on the hill would be used by the road department.

“I’ve always envisioned it (new fire station) as not just for the fire department,” Wilson said.

After considerable discussion and some confusion, trustees unanimously approved a revised list of resurfacing projects to go out for bids. The bid document will again give trustees an option to remove specific roads from the work list if bids come in higher than expected. The projects bid are:

• Licking Trails – south of I-70;
• Dog Wood and Deer Trail;
• Hupp Road;
• Roley Hills;
• Somerset;
• Ridgely Tract from Lake Drive west
to Union Township;
• Maple;
• Ridge;
• Hill Top;
• Fairview;
• Summit; and
• Zone paving on Fairmount and

Sealed bids will be opened at the August 3 trustees’ meeting.

Crack sealing in Misty Meadows and The Woods will be a separate project.

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