Temporary shut downs – called brownouts – have hit the Miami Valley Fire District as a tight budget has curtailed all hiring, overtime and other spending, the chief said.
Fire Chief Matt Queen said the recent closing of Station 51 near the Austin Boulevard interchange is a common step when needing to curb spending periodically through the year.
The station is set to be open this week, Queen said, but fiscal constraints may well lead to more brownouts this year at what he said is the least used of five stations serving Miami Twp. and Miamisburg.
“It’s nothing new,” he said. “I do this every year….about mid-year because we start prepping the next year’s budget around August or September … This is absolutely nothing new. I look at our history of spending, and I try to project what next year’s budget may look like based on previous years.”
Queen told battalion chiefs last week that in a move to curtail spending “all hiring was suspended, the use of overtime was eliminated, spending for supplies and materials would be limited and monitored, training requests will be evaluated and likely limited,” according to a fire district email dated Aug. 2.
Those spending constraints will be considered “through the rest of this year,” Queen said. “I have to control costs and do an across-the-board evaluation … to stay within the actions of my board of trustees. So those actions are enforced until we deem them” unnecessary.
The fire district is among the area departments that have browned out stations. Others include Dayton and West Carrollton.
The district, which began 2019 with an annual budget of about $9.5 million, has a staff of about 75 right now, Queen said. Last November, more than 71 percent of Miami Twp. voters approved a 3.5-mill, five-year renewal levy.
In 2017, results of a study commissioned on the fire district found 61 percent of surveyed residents indicated approval of how tax dollars were being used for the fire district.
The district is operating at about the same funding levels as a decade ago, officials in the city and the township have repeatedly said.
“We’re working diligently to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and stretch the dollar bill as far as we can stretch it (and) provide the best services we can provide,” Queen said.
Station 51 has been temporarily closed “on several occasions in previous years … based on overtime getting too high, staff gets too low and that might be based on injuries or illnesses on staff,” Queen said.
Residents in the area of the station near the city and township border expressed concern late last week when it shut down as the next closest fire station – No. 52, the headquarters of Lyons Road – is about four miles away.
Miamisburg resident Jennifer Lawton questioned why there wasn’t notification that Station 51 would close temporarily.
“We pay taxes. Isn’t that information we should be able to know? We should be able to know. We should be able to get answers,” she said.
Staff Writer Monica Castro contributed to this report.
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