West Carrollton fire chief doing his part to find ‘yes’ votes for fire/EMS levy

Monday night was the first of two public forums for West Carrollton residents to hear why their city's fire department wants voters to pass a fire/emergency services levy on St. Patrick's Day.

Attendance wasn't heavy at the West Carrollton Nazarene Church, 550 S. Elm St., but there was support.

Resident Roger Gibson, a retired teacher, said the levy is extremely important because if a resident has a fire or medical emergency, "you want them there 10 minutes ago."

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Fire Chief Chris Barnett said without the $672,000 the five-year renewable 3.9 mill levy would be expected to bring in, the fire department would have to continue -- or increase -- its "brownout" program, which is the temporary closing of a fire station, an ambulance in a station or a fire truck because there wouldn't be enough fire/EMS personnel to adequately staff the city's two fire stations.

Both Gibson and Barnett agree that every second counts in a fire or ambulance run.

Funds generated by the levy will be used exclusively to support the fire department.

The city's fire/EMS department has relied on several full-time and many part-time employees to fully staff both fire stations 56 and 57 for years, city spokeswoman Heidi Van Antwerp said in a statement issued before Monday night’s forum.

Hiring and retaining both full and part-time staff has become increasingly difficult since 2016. The part-time staff has decreased by half. Also, people are less interested in joining the profession.

While the fire department endeavors to fully operate using current staffing, including the use of overtime, daily emergency response levels can vary.

“Browning out” a piece of fire equipment or temporarily closing a station results in a reduction in the daily firefighting and emergency response force, Chief Barnett said.

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There have been approximately 1,600 hours per year of brownouts the last several years. Anyone seeking medical attention might be affected by a brownout, which could double the response time to the emergency situation.

Monday night, Chief Barnett told News Center 7's Ronnell Hunt the levy will allow the city to stabilize its emergency response times by hiring four additional full-time firefighter/paramedics as well as increasing the incentive pay and benefits for part-time positions.

Salary increases and educational assistance will provide the ability to recruit, retain and stay competitive with surrounding municipalities.

"By having the ability to fully staff both stations 24/7/365, which is what we strive for every day, the likelihood of brownouts will significantly decrease," the chief said.

If the levy is approved on Ohio Primary Day, March 17, a homeowner would pay approximately 37 cents a day or $11.10 per month for every $100,000 of assessed home value.

The second -- and last public forum before Election Day -- is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, at the West Carrollton branch library, 300 E. Central Ave.

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