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Update: The meeting set for Aug. 17 has been postponed to a later date pending receipt of a revised Fire/EMS contract from Macedonia.
Northfield Center -- Trustees will have a special meeting Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. to determine the fate of the fire service in Northfield Center Township.
A special meeting was conducted Aug. 15 to discuss the possibility of resurrecting the Northfield Center Fire Department despite voters' defeat earlier this month of Issue 3, which would have funded the department at its current level of service.
The Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District is disbanding in September after a March decision by Sagamore Hills Trustees to withdraw from the district and contract for fire service with Macedonia. Sagamore will house a substation in the park to be manned by Macedonia staff.
Trustee Paul Buescher said the township had not received a written contract from Macedonia °-- until the Aug. 15 meeting, when Mayor Joe Migliorini and Macedonia Fire Captain Brian Ripley hand delivered the contract to trustees to review. The five-year agreement for manpower only will cost the township $375,000 per year, the contract states. 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. The township would still incur the operating costs of its facility.
A vocal majority of the nearly 100 people who attended the Aug. 15 meeting expressed anger that trustees were even looking at the possibility of opening the fire department instead of contracting with another municipality.
Resident Cindy Kelly said she feels the city is contiguous with the township and would provide "extra coverage" with Sagamore Hills to the west and Macedonia to the east of the township. 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.
"I feel it is simply not feasible, in 2016, for a town of 5,000 plus people to maintain its own full-time fire department," Kelly said. "That's why regionalization is occurring in so many places. I realize Macedonia's charter does not allow regionalization at this time but perhaps after Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center Townships contract with them, their Council might act to change that."
Buescher said he and Trustee John Romanik worked on the proposal to bring back the fire department in a smaller version out of necessity, because until the Aug. 15 meeting neither he nor Romanik had seen any contract from Macedonia except the one they inked with Sagamore Hills Trustees.
Skyhaven resident Russ Mazzola asked trustees why the levy was necessary if the fire department could have been resurrected without the 6-mill levy which was defeated Aug. 2.
Buescher said the levy was placed on the ballot to ask residents to maintain the "current level of service." He added the defeat of the levy left the township looking at contracting with Valley Fire District, Northfield Village or Macedonia. However, Valley Fire and Northfield Village pulled out of the running and having not heard from the city sooner, he felt there needed to be a backup plan.
"By law this Board has to provide you [the residents] with fire service," Buescher said, adding that was the only reason he came up with figures to resurrect a scaled-down fire department.
The smaller proposal for the fire department includes two firefighters on station 24/7 with a part-time chief for 20 hours per week and a part-time inspector working 15 hours per week. According to a fact sheet from Buescher the cost of this arrangement would be $379,300 for personnel in 2017. However, even with the cost being comparable to Macedonia's price, the township will have to seek a levy in 2017, because it will be deficit spending in 2017 by $133,000, according to Buescher.
The total cost to resurrect the fire department is $640,000 compared to contracting with Macedonia which would cost the township $659,000, Buescher said.
Buescher said there were many gaps in Sagamore's deal with the city and he had questions including defining the word infrastructure, when it comes to billing the township for infrastructure updates or collection fees the city may charge. Migliorini said he was willing to meet with the trustees and attorneys for the city and township to hash out the details prior to the Aug. 17 meeting.
"I don't see issue that you brought up that we can't resolve," Migliorini said
Briana Barker: 330-541-9432