The Delaware Fire Department is fulfilling the promises made after a levy was passed in 2010, officials said last week.
At a meeting held Monday, April 22, Fire Chief John Donahue updated Delaware City Council members on equipment upgrades, new hires and the construction of two new firehouses being built with levy funds.
The 2010 levy nearly doubled the amount of money the fire department receives from city income taxes. Residents voted to increase the income-tax rate from 1.55 percent to 1.85 percent, with the additional 0.3 percent to provide additional funding for fire and EMS services. The department previously received 0.4 percent of the total collected.
The fire department's budget is now roughly $4 million a year.
Donahue said the construction of Fire Station 303, located at 1320 W. Central Ave. on the city's west side, is making steady progress and is about 40 percent complete. Workers broke ground in October.
It's expected to be finished late this year and equipped with a fire engine and medic.
Fire Station 304, conceived as a small satellite station at 821 Cheshire Road on the southeast side, will be constructed at a later date as the city's south side experiences anticipated growth, Donahue said.
The department also has steadily grown its staff. As of April 2013, the fire department staffs 52 employees, up from 44 in November 2010.
Upgrades include hiring Douglas Stewart, the department's first assistant chief, as well promoting firefighter Alan Matteson to EMS coordinator.
"That has helped significantly with our EMS program, which equates to nearly 80 percent of responses," Donahue said.
The fire department also hired a third fire-prevention officer and currently is engaged in hiring new firefighters to fill nine lieutenant positions. That will provide a lead officer to oversee each of the department's nine shifts.
Officials also plan to hire six part-time firefighters in 2013.
A new service coordinator program will be introduced this year to help respond to the needs of local senior citizens.
Levy funds also allowed the fire department to offer additional training and professional development opportunities for firefighters, including two agility tests in 2012.
Officials have worked to replace old equipment as well. In 2012, the fire department purchased a new ladder truck, replacing an aging 30-year-old model.
"It's been a complete asset to us," Donahue said.
A new medic and two non-emergency staff vehicles also were purchased last year.
New, high-tech cardiac monitors are in the 2013 budget. The department will upgrade to new software to help EMS staff track inventory of medications and exchange information with hospitals.
"In this industry, if you're standing still, you're actually falling behind, and that's no different in our fire department" Matteson said. "Things change so quickly, we really need to be on top of what we're doing and making sure the quality is where the residents need it. "
Prior to the passage of the 2010 levy, city officials said they had been looking for ways to increase the fire department budget for nearly a decade.
A 2003 fire levy was defeated by about 100 votes.
Officials said funding the department through income tax instead will allow fire and EMS services to grow along with the city.