Tipp City, township begin planning for future EMS, fire department

House fire in Tipp City

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House fire in Tipp City

Officials of Tipp City and Monroe Twp. began jointly exploring the future of emergency services in a discussion where involvement of fire and EMS employees and volunteers was listed as a priority.

The future of the Tipp City Fire and Emergency Services organization, which traditionally has involved volunteer fire and volunteer/part-time EMS staff, was addressed in a study commissioned by the city and released by the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association in December.

The staffing recommendation in the study was for transition to on-station paid personnel. “You need to put bodies in the station. It is up to the community to decide if they are full or part time,” Keith Larsen, a retired Columbus area fire chief, told city council in January.

Over time there should be seven to eight people on station around the clock to allow the department to meet EMS response and fire needs, the consultants said. Chief Cameron Haller and Assistant Chief David Stockler are the only full-time department employees today.

Haller, who joined the newly combined fire and EMS department in spring 2019,said following the Feb. 9 joint meeting there are many decisions yet to be made.

“What will we absolutely look like at the end? I have no idea,” he said.

It is important to keep in mind, is the city “is not looking at eliminating the volunteers or paid part-time EMS employees,” said City Manager Tim Eggleston. “Our focus is still around them in being able to provide emergency services.”

The township trustees and city plan at least three meetings in coming months to explore staffing, funding and governance of the department. A future meeting topic will be funding with possibilities including a city income tax, a property tax or a combination of taxes. Monroe Twp. trustees now contract with the city for fire and ambulance services.

Among topics at the Feb. 9 meeting were response times, mutual aid and level of care including whether it is realistic to have a paramedic on all runs. The answers will help Haller as he works on the plan how best to staff the department, Eggleston said.

Township Trustee Phil Cox said the township has not received complaints about response times in talking with the township’s elderly. He commended both fire and EMS squads for their service.

The Tipp City community has changed over the past decade to include more young families as well as senior living communities, which need more resources, Cox said.

“I am very sensitive to the need to fund the department in a conservative but certainly a safe manner,” he said.

Councilman Mike McFarland said he thinks a paramedic should be available for emergency calls 24-7, considering the older population being served. He also brought up another possible future cost, a fire station west of Interstate 75 if growth in that area continues.

City Council President Katie Berbach said she wanted to focus initially on the “human capital” in the department.

“We really need to get the employees feeling like they are part of the process (of planning for the future) … and not be afraid of it,” she said.

“”I really want the employees and chief to know I am really invested in how well… they are being engaged in the department. If we don’t have people, we don’t have a department,” Berbach said.

Township Trustee Greg Siefring said costs and level of service are important to the trustees. He agreed with Berbach on the need for employee buy in and said he had heard from a few residents about the department discussions.

One was a former volunteer firefighter who said he had serious concerns if the department became a full-time paid operation. “He expressed how important it was to maintain a volunteer basis in the department. I hope we can continue down that path,” Siefring said.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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