BUCKEYE LAKE – Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason, who is professional fire chief and a member of Buckeye Lake Mayor Rick Baker’s committee to assess and advise the Buckeye Lake Fire Department, said he met with Buckeye Lake Fire Chief Pete Leindecker and other department members Friday to discuss the department and issues surrounding it.
“We had a good meeting,” said Mason Wednesday. He said he and Leindecker created an agenda of issues to be addressed and a list of those that have been addressed to present to the committee at its next meeting. “(Leindecker) would like to report that we’ve made some strides,” said Mason, including replacing volunteers who no longer work there and hiring an additional volunteer.
Baker formed the committee following an in-depth study by The Beacon revealing large gaps in the department’s part-time paid staffing schedule that affect response times. The committee includes Buckeye Lake resident and Columbus firefighter John Julian, Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason, resident Paul Clark, Lancaster Safety and Service Director Mike Courtney, Columbus Fire Department Lt. Doug Sanderson, former Millersport Fire Chief and current Walnut Township Trustee Bill Yates, and Union Township Trustee Rick Black.
“There is a lot of experience and background within this group and it is not just something thrown together,” said Julian.
Mason said Leindecker also plans to set up a meeting with Beacon Editor Charles Prince to discuss the current state of the Buckeye Lake Fire Department and what’s being done to address issues. “(Leindecker) wants to get his side of the story out,” said Mason.
Monday night, Buckeye Lake Village Council President Charlene Hayden said at least two members of the committee had met with Leindecker, and committee members were clear that the committee’s goal is to help the fire department in any way it can.
“In my discussions with Chief Leindecker, I would say that he has, and is currently making every effort possible to see that coverage for the village is available. Scheduling Fire Department employees and volunteers is a much more complex process than it appears on the surface.
Hayden said in her limited discussion with a few members of the committee, that apparently other fire departments, especially volunteer departments, struggle with hiring and retaining employees and scheduling them to meet the community’s needs. “The chief indicated to me that he will make every effort to keep us informed about the workings of the fire department,” she said.
In other village news:
• Buckeye Lake Economic Development Director Mike Cassidy said a house on Myers Avenue would be demolished soon. A tree fell on the house during a storm, seriously damaging it. The house is being demolished as part of the of the Move Ohio Forward Grant program, which Cassidy said will fund the demolition of other derelict houses in the village.
“We’re real close on several others, too,” he said. Newark Department of Community Development grant writer Barbara Gilkes, who is administrating the program locally, said she believes Buckeye Lake Village’s progress in demolishing derelict homes is pretty much in line with other Licking County communities involved with the program, except for Newark, which is progressing very quickly, and Johnstown, which still needs to submit contracts for demolition. “I think we’re moving along,” she said. “I’m pretty pleased with the progress.”
Gilkes said Cassidy and Hayden were to meet with Joe Paul, code official for Newark’s property maintenance division, Friday to discuss the demolitions.
• Council approved an amendment to an ordinance stating that pay levels and salary levels are not to exceed what’s listed in the ordinance. Council members voted 4 to 3, with council members Barry Herron, Jeryne Peterson, and Kaye Hartman voting “no.”
The ordinance includes paying a water department supervisor (with a Class I license) $21.50 per hour for 40 hours per week. Some council members believe that’s too high for a new hire, and that the hourly rate should increase over time to that amount.
Other salary levels include $13.97 per hour for a full-time police officer, $15.50 for a police captain and $20.07 for police chief. A street worker earns $11 per hour and street supervisor earns $16 per hour.
Hartman said she voted “no” not because she necessarily objects to the pay rates, but because she disagrees with how the ordinance was presented to council.
• Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Baker to submit an application to the Ohio Public Works Commission’s Clean Ohio Fund Green Space Conservation Grant program to help fund the Buckeye Lake Park and Recreation Commission and other citizens’ efforts to study the Category 3 wetlands at the village’s well field and eventually turn it into a park. If completed, the park may contain boardwalks, similar to those on Cranberry Bog.