Tipp City to vote on hiring full-time fire/EMS staff; details divided council

City is transitioning from a volunteer and part-time department to hiring full-time professionals

TIPP CITY — The majority of Tipp City council members said they support Emergency Services Chief Cameron Haller and a plan for transitioning the Fire/EMS Department from a mostly volunteer/part-time operation to full- and part-time staffing starting with hiring four supervising captains this year.

Council has been divided on the direction to take in transitioning the department staffing. Volunteers would still be used when available, although their numbers have declined.

Haller’s proposal calls for hiring four supervisors this year, followed by 12 other staff members in the next five years, for work shifts of 24 hours on and 72 hours off.

Four council members said Tuesday they backed that proposal, while three supported hiring three supervisors to start, the other staff members over time, and shifts of 24 hours on and 48 hours off.

A resolution calling for the latter plan failed, with Council President Kathryn Huffman, Joanna Pittenger and Ryan Liddy voting yes, while Mayor Mike McFarland, Greg Enslen, Robert Schwab and Doug Slagel voted no.

Council debated the staffing proposals before the vote on the resolution. Some said it was time for the city to move forward with adding staffing and, in turn, improving services.

A couple pointed to a memo sent to council earlier this year by Haller, urging it to move forward. He wrote in the memo that “progress on this plan is critical” for citizens and the department.

The department now has two full-time employees in Haller and the assistant chief.

Schwab reminded fellow council members that city voters in November approved a proposed reallocation of city income tax from the capital improvement fund to the general fund for needs such as fire/EMS and other services.

Monroe Twp. residents earlier approved a tax increase to pay increased costs for the city fire and EMS services under the chief’s plan. Township trustees recently reiterated support of that plan in a letter.

McFarland said the city charter does not allow council to dictate to the chiefs how to run their departments.

“The fire chief presented a plan. He knows more than we do,” McFarland said. “Let the chief do his job.”

“This is within the restraints of our budget,” Liddy said of the plan of three supervisors and 24/48 shifts.

Huffman said she favored a full-time department but also a “fiscally conservative approach” to building toward that goal as opposed to hiring and then possibly having to “dial back” on staffing.

She also said the 24 hour on/48 hours off scheduling is consistent with other departments in the region. Those working 24/72 shifts also increases the likelihood employees will be working elsewhere as well.

Huffman said the council also needs to promote the city to help with recruiting.

“I am not really comfortable with micromanaging,” said Enslen.

Later in the meeting, council heard a first reading of an ordinance that would amend city ordinances to include the sick time and other provisions for the added fire/EMS positions, with benefits reflecting a planned schedule of 24 hours on and 72 hours off.

If council approves that ordinance at its next meeting, it will pave the way for the staffing plan advocated by Haller, City Manager Tim Eggleston said following the council meeting.

The department staffing has been under study and discussion for several years including a study by the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association in 2015 and a series of meetings in 2021 that included city council and Monroe Twp. trustees, who contract with the city for fire and EMS response.

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