Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District Trustees set $1.28 million budget

by Jeff Saunders | Reporter Published:

Nordonia Hills -- The Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District's 2013 total budget appropriation is the same amount as this year's, but $180,000 may be added to purchase a new ambulance.

The district's board of trustees approved 5-0, with one absence, a $1.28 million budget Nov. 28, but not before removing the ambulance appropriation. District trustees, who also serve as the Trustees in the two townships, say they want to discuss the matter at their upcoming meetings, Northfield Center on Dec. 3 and Sagamore Hills on Dec. 10, to determine if the townships can afford the additional cost.

"If we are proposing an increase in the budget, don't we first have to approve it as townships?" asked Northfield Center Trustee Brent Sommer.

"My main concern is making sure the township has the money," he added.

The Board also discussed a proposal for a reorganization of the district and approved 4-0 the hiring of Sagamore Hills attorney Jeff Snell to provide legal services. The budget has $15,000 appropriated for legal services. Sagamore Hills Trustee Rosemary Snell abstained from the vote to hire her son.

Costs paid by each township are determined by total property valuations as calculated by the Summit County Fiscal Office, with Sagamore Hills paying about a third. According to the approved budget, Sagamore Hills paid about $686,000 this year and Northfield Center about $343,000, with the remaining $250,000 supplied by ambulance billings to patient insurance companies.

The bulk of Northfield Center's share is paid for from the approximately $323,000 generated by the township's 2-mill, five-year fire levy, which voters renewed Nov. 6.

Roughly $240,000 of Sagamore Hills share is provided by a 0.75-mill, five year fire levy, with the remainder coming from the township's general fund.

The appropriation does include a number of changes in individual line items, increases and decreases that balance out. The two largest are an increase from $430,000 this year to $470,000 next year, for operations salaries and a decrease from $70,000 this year for protective clothing to $40,000 next year.

Fire Chief Frank Risko said the salary increase is due to the addition of a fourth firefighter on station during the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday shift, a staffing increase that began Nov. 4. In addition, the board approved $39,200 for an as yet unspecified number of sets of protective turnout gear. Risko said it may be possible the funds may be enough to provide for the department's needs next year.

Risko said the ambulance would replace the district's 1999 model that is no longer reliable. The district has two primary ambulances, purchased new in 2005 and 2008, but with call numbers expected to increase by around 200 over last yearr's total, there are concerns about what might happen during times when one ambulance is unavailable for maintenance.

"I thing we're about 160 over (last year) now," Risko told the News Leader after the meeting.

Risko said he is hoping for authorization from the trustees before the end of the December because there an increase in the price of new ambulance is expected in January.

"I believe the increase is 10 to 20 percent," District Clerk Rosemary Barrett told the board.

Northfield Center Trustee Richard Reville, who chairs the fire district board, said purchasing a new ambulance would increase the lifespan of the other two ambulances.

"We're beating up the two primaries," he said.

"You could approve the budget except for this and have more dialogue," said District attorney Jeff Snell. "It's more capital [expense] anyway. It's not an annual item."

While the board did not approve details of a reorganization plan for the district, it did approve its "concept," giving officials, including Snell and Risko, authorization to continue fine tuning an evolving plan.

Snell said that plan developed in part through an analysis of how the Macedonia, Northfield Village, Brecksville, Oakwood and Cuyahoga Falls fire departments and the Valley Fire District are organized.

The result is a proposal to cut the current 14 job descriptions down to four, including chief, captain, liutenant and clerk, plus seven "special tasks," such as EMS coordinator, fire prevention and fire training, that would be assigned to various members.

"We have lots and lots of job descriptions," said Snell. "The goal of this is to identify all the tasks and streamline them."

The plan also includes the addition of a second captain and a fifth lieutenant at a total annual cost of just under $3,300 in additional pay, said Snell. He and Risko said this is necessary to mitigate scheduling difficulties that arise because district personel are part timers who often have full-time jobs outside the district.

"Risko said the proposal is already a result of "many hours of work and planning."

"The chain of command has been loose in past years and this will strengthen it," he said.

E-mail: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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