Delaware News

City bolsters firefighter force with eight new additions

Work on Central Ave. fire station continues

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Eight new firefighters joined the ranks of the Delaware Fire Department this month.

The new recruits are part of a plan to beef up the local department after an income-tax increase was approved by voters in 2010.

Fire Chief John Donahue introduced the eight new employees at the June 10 meeting of Delaware City Council.

"We have been able to identify some outstanding individuals who have joined our city and also our fire department," Donahue said.

With the passage of the levy, fire officials pledged new firefighters to fill nine lieutenant positions, providing a lead officer to oversee each of the department's nine shifts.

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.

In the past three years, the department has steadily grown its staff. As of April 2013, the fire department staff has 52 employees, up from 44 in November 2010.

Changes include hiring Douglas Stewart, the department's first assistant chief, as well as promoting firefighter Alan Matteson to EMS coordinator.

In addition to the expansion of the fire department staff, the construction of Fire Station 303, 1320 W. Central Ave. on the city's west side, is well under way. 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.

Prior to the passage of the 2010 tax hike, 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.

Also at the June 10 meeting, council approved an updated agreement for participation with Delaware County's countywide 911 emergency system.

Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said the agreement will smooth out issues seen since the city and county merged 911 systems in 2007.

"This cleans up the language, establishes the relationship between the 911 commission board and county commissioners, and makes it easier for the incoming director to run the place with less confusion," Pijanowski said.

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