GREENVILLE — The future direction of the Greenville Fire Department was the topic of discussion at a full council work session of the Greenville City Council Tuesday night.
Greenville Fire Department (GFD) Chief Mark Wolf presented a nine-point outline to council members, detailing the department’s equipment, staffing and financial needs in the near future, as well as a proposed merger with Greenville Township EMS (GTE).
Though council took no action, the GFD Strategic and Capital Improvement Plan 2010-2015 has been discussed on previous occasions by an ad hoc committee composed of Tracy Tryon, John Baumgardner and Todd Oliver in coordination with Chief Wolf.
The plan, if implemented, would address staffing needs; upgrade the department’s radio communications; integrate GFD and GTE into one entity; address capital improvement; raise the Haz-Mat team to Type II status; create a “live-burn” training facility; remodel the fire department’s basement classroom; and build permanent attic area steps at the fire department building.
Perhaps the most contentious issue is the proposed integration of GFD and GTE, which would require the creation of what is termed a “paper township” — which would join the City of Greenville and Greenville Township as it relates to fire and EMS services.
Further, such a move would eliminate an existing 3-mill fire services levy. Voters would subsequently need to approve another levy to maintain current services. As drafted, the plan proposes a 1 or 1.5 mill levy on property owners.
Councilman John Baumgardner called the switch out for a lower levy a “no brainer.”
“This will save taxpayers money,” he said. “It’s an easy sell.”
Greenville Mayor Mike Bowers concurred, saying, “An an elected official, it is our responsibility to look at those dollars. There is an opportunity in this to save tax dollars, without sacrificing fire and EMS services.”
Council had previously explored the issue in 2009. The ad hoc committee at that time recommended that the city not go through with the merger, and council accepted that recommendation.
Council members Todd Oliver and Roy Harrison expressed objections to the current plan, with Harrison asking, “Why fix something that isn’t broken?”
Wolf responded, “Things are broken,” and cited the numerous fire department needs identified in the plan.
One of the pressing needs is the department’s outdated communications systems. The plan contains a proposal to transition to the Ohio MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communications) system, which is rapidly becoming the norm among emergency agencies in Ohio.
“We are very fortunate to already have three MARCS towers in this county,” said Wolf. “The big problem is going to be funding it.”
Wolf told council the cost of equipping the entire county’s fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies is estimated at $3 million.
As for the current system in place at the fire department, Wolf said, “Soon we’ll get word from Motorola that they no longer support our equipment any more.”
Council President John Burkett, in closing the session, brought up the fact that the complexion of council will soon be changing, with two new members moving into seats being vacated by Baumgardner and Harrison.
“There’s only three months left with this current council,” he said. “There will be some new faces come January first. This is likely going to take more time.”
Upon the recommendation of ad hoc committee chair Tryon, council will set a date for the committee’s next work session at council’s regular meeting held October 6.