In tight vote, Tipp City approves big move to full-time fire/EMS department

City also provides services for neighboring Monroe Twp., via contract

TIPP CITY — After years of reviewing options for meeting the city and Monroe Twp.’s growing fire and emergency medical services needs, Tipp City Council voted 4-3 this week to create a full-time emergency services department

The change through a phased hiring process is coming in a community where generations of family members volunteered to provide fire and ambulance services for fellow community members.

That structure worked for decades until recent years when volunteer numbers dropped due to added training requirements, changes in family dynamics and other factors. It also is becoming more difficult to attract part-time emergency personnel, council was told.

The study of alternatives to the current mostly part-time operation has been ongoing for a number of years. Today, there are two full-time employees in the chief and deputy chief, along with part-time employees and, when available, volunteers.

The plan called for by Emergency Services Chief Cameron Haller would include 16 full-time emergency personnel to include four captains and 12 full-time dual-certified employees to be hired over the next five years “unless funding provides otherwise,” the resolution before council stated. At one point, the proposal called for hiring an administrative secretary, but that position was dropped from the plan.

The department plans to hire four captains this year to complete a supervisory structure, followed by hiring of the other employees. The hiring will include the civil service process. With testing and other hiring steps, the captains could be on board by the last week of August or first week of September, Haller said this week.

The department’s work week will be 24 hours on duty followed by 72 hours off. Part-time employees would work a schedule averaging no more than 30 hours per week.

That 24-on, 72-off schedule would translate to an average of 42 hours worked per week, over the long term.

The goal is to have seven people on a shift and could include three part-time and four full-time employees, according to the resolution before council March 20.

Monroe Twp. contracts with the city for services, now paying 27 percent of costs.

The resolution authorized City Manager Tim Eggleston to move forward with the full-time department.

Voting “yes” were Mayor Mike McFarland, Greg Enslen, Robert Schwab and Doug Slagel, while council President Kathryn Huffman, Ryan Liddy and Joanna Pittenger voted “no,”

“This is long overdue. Let’s get it done,” said McFarland.

Liddy said he realizes there is a need for more personnel, but he thought a more conservative approach was needed.

Huffman also called for taking smaller steps, saying she thought the proposal would have the city looking at a tax levy down the road. “If we need to grow, I am not opposed to more in the future,” she said.

Other council members said the council needed to give weight to the expertise of Haller and Eggleston and let them do their jobs.

City resident Abby Bowling, who said family members were involved in the volunteer department for 100 years, pointed out volunteers were not mentioned in the resolution before council. In emotional comments, she called the volunteer department of the past “a wonderful legacy.”

Huffman agreed volunteers were not mentioned in the resolution. It was amended to include having up to 12 department volunteers before council took its vote.

In other public comments, township resident Lynn Shirk said she had an accident at home, and Tipp City was unable to respond. A squad from Vandalia had to be called.

“We have situations that occur because we don’t have enough staff, obviously,” she said.

Mike Hawk of Tipp City said fire and EMS should be a priority in the budget.

“If we don’t have something to protect our people, it doesn’t matter how beautiful our roads are … We need to get some sort of plan before someone gets hurt,” Hawk said.

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