Weakened fire forces left in wake of trustee's actions

To the Editor:

In 2011, the Liberty Township Fire Department was recognized as Emergency Medical Service provider of the Year. Now, it is a department decimated by the political grandstanding of Trustee Melanie Leneghan. So if Ms. Leneghan is done writing self-serving letters and quotes telling us how wonderful she thinks she is, let's assess the damage she's done in the past year.

Shortly after entering office, she called the township's only front-line woman firefighter a "token female" and made comments about her about being a single woman in a firehouse. The township investigation report is a public record anyone can request by contacting Township Administrator Dave Anderson at danderson@libertytwp.org. The firefighter was deeply offended and sought an apology, explaining to Ms. Leneghan how demeaning her comments were and that no one gave her the job; she had to pass all the same tests as the men and had earned her position. Ms. Leneghan refused to apologize. That tells you all you need to know about Ms. Leneghan.

Ms. Leneghan then led a crusade against the fire levy last November, claiming the levy could be voted down without effecting quality of service. I firmly believe the public was misled, as the levy's failure resulted in severe consequences. Approximately 20 full- and part-time firefighters -- 20 percent of the force -- have been eliminated. Paramedic squads will now only have two paramedics instead of three -- an important issue when there are multiple injuries at a scene, or a life-threatening condition requires emergency care during transport to the hospital.

There also are not adequate capital funds now to replace an aging paramedic squad and fire engine, a cost near $700,000.

Shamefully, after opposing the November levy, Ms. Leneghan turned around and voted against layoffs of full-time firefighters, leaving it to her fellow trustees, who supported the levy, to do the dirty work necessitated by its failure. I believe it was political cowardice by Ms. Leneghan to oppose the levy and then try to run away from the consequences of her actions.

The department can no longer take the lead on the special-needs registry, which helped disabled children and others requiring specialized care. It can no longer participate in senior-care programs that help the elderly.

All this was done in the name of saving $60 a year, or $5 a month, per $100,000 of home valuation -- that's how much more the November levy would have cost. For a person with a $300,000 home, that's $15 a month. The voters need to decide if losing 20 percent of the fire department force, being left without capital funds to replace safety vehicles, and cutting vital services to the most vulnerable among us merited those savings.

For myself, I thought we were a better community. I guess that should I ever pass away in an emergency medical situation due to these cuts, my loved ones can try to find comfort in knowing that Melanie Leneghan was saving me $5 a month per $100,000 of home value.

Jim Hurt