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Issue 3 fails, what's next for fire and EMS service in Northfield Center?

by Briana Barker | Reporter Published: August 10, 2016 12:00 AM
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Northfield Center -- After the failure of Issue 3, Northfield Center Trustees must decide what to do for fire and EMS coverage for the township when the Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District dissolves in September. Their options include contracting with Macedonia or Northfield Village or not contracting with another department at all, according to Trustee Paul Buescher.

Trustee Rich Reville said Trustees would like to get as much input from the public as possible.

"What we want to do is get the best service for our residents with the money we have available," Reville said Aug. 5.

Buescher told the News Leader Aug. 8 that there is a chance Trustees could decide the township could handle fire service without going with another community, but declined to comment further on the subject.

Buescher anticipates Trustees will call a special meeting to make a final decision regarding who to contract with prior to the Sept. 15 dissolution of the fire district. At press time, a meeting date had not been set.

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Buescher said that while the 6-mill levy was rejected, the township will likely have to go back to the voters for a smaller levy some time next year, because the current levy isn't enough to cover all operating costs, regardless of who is providing the service.

Issue 3 defeated

After a contentious election, Issue 3 was rejected by voters Aug. 2 by a margin of around 83-to-17 percent, or 1,066 to 223 votes, according to unofficial results.

Issue 3 would have brought the township $940,000 annually for five years at a cost of $210 per $100,000 of a homeowner's property value to "resurrect" the Northfield Center Fire Department.

Buescher said there are "no sore feelings" about the levy failure and the vote was clear.

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"The people made their choice very clearly and now we have to make ours," Buescher said, adding those who were against the levy had a strong campaign and were to be congratulated.

Reville said he feels the residents have spoken and "they want us to be careful with the money we spend."

Buescher said while the Valley Fire District has declined to provide a contract for services, he has been negotiating with Northfield Village, while Reville was talking with Macedonia.

"What's really been nice is every community has said they would help cover the township when the district closes, and they'll support us every which way," Reville said.

Village shifts proposal

An Aug. 4 letter from Northfield Village Mayor Jesse Nehez to Northfield Center Trustees states the village would not agree to staff the Northfield Center Fire Station with fewer than three firefighters, 24-7.

Buescher said the requirement may put the village "out of the running," for a contract with Northfield Center.

A May 9 proposal from Northfield Village outlined several options for the township to choose from ranging in cost from just over $400,000 per year for two firefighters on station to around $625,000 per year for three firefighters on station and a part-time station chief.

Village Fire Chief Jason Buss now says he cannot go lower than three people on staff in the township because he only has three firefighters on staff in the village, which isn't enough to spare for backup.

Nehez told the News Leader that during talks with Buescher the village said it would not go below $590,000 for staffing of three firefighters.

In addition, the Aug. 4 letter states the "There is no form of staffing that Northfield Village will be able to provide that would better meet the economical and operational needs" than the township managing its own department with two firefighters, or contracting with Macedonia.

"Macedonia has a larger pool of firefighters in the city of Macedonia that could be used to supplement staffing on Northfield Center calls should the need arise," the letter states.

Macedonia proposal not finalized

The offer Macedonia officials outlined during a May 2 meeting was to contract for manpower only at a cost to the township of $375,000 per year. The city would staff the Northfield Center Fire Station with two people -- as the city is contracted to do at a building in Sagamore Hills. If Northfield Center contracted with the city, both the Northfield Center Fire Station and the substation in Sagamore Hills would be backed up by the main fire station in Macedonia, which has seven firefighters on duty during the day.

Reville said Aug. 5 the township had not yet received a final contract from the city but added there would still be "tweaks" needed before finalizing a contract such as details regarding equipment.

Macedonia Fire Chief Tim Black said the city stands "ready to negotiate in an any way, shape or form" with Northfield Center. He said there have not been any negotiations with the township since the original proposal in May.

Equipment split pending

Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills have both had attorneys representing their interests in negotiating a split of fire district equipment between the two townships. Reville said he anticipates the division of equipment to be completed sometime before Aug. 12.

Attorney for the fire district Jeff Snell told the News Leader Aug. 5 the negotiations have been "pretty straightforward." The big equipment items include four squads, two fire engines, one boat, one pick up truck and one chief/chase vehicle, according to an equipment list provided by Northfield Center.

Both Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center would need equipment of their own to accept contract service, under current proposals.

"Both townships will have enough equipment to start up," Reville said.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432

bbarker@recordpub.com

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