Hilliard Northwest News

New fire levy puts township's plans in motion

Trustees, department officials could revamp supervision structure, hire three firefighters and buy three vehicles

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On the heels of a successful 4.12-mill fire levy campaign, Norwich Township officials have plans to restructure the fire department's chain of command, hire at least three new firefighters and purchase a new engine and medic unit.

Voters in Hilliard and Norwich Township on May 7 approved the measure by a vote of 1,787 votes (67 percent) to 875 votes (33 percent). The levy will generate about $4 million annually and cost property owners an additional $126.18 each year per $100,000 of assessed valuation.

Fire Chief Bob Kaufman, Township Administrator Kate Cavanaugh and other township employees met May 9 with trustees for a quarterly planning session at which the changes in command structure and new purchases were discussed.

Kaufman told trustees during the three-hour session that he desires to reorganize the upper management of the department.

About 18 months ago, the department was restructured to have a battalion chief for each of its three units. A unit consists of the firefighters assigned to work one 24-hour shift, followed by two days off, at each of the department's three stations.

Previously, the battalion chiefs had worked 40-hour, five-day weeks, the same as the chief and assistant chief.

The department also has two captains, one EMS captain and one training captain. Each works a standard 40-hour, five-day work week.

Kaufman said he favors naming a captain for each unit, working the same shifts as the battalion chiefs, lieutenants and firefighters.

"We would be eliminating two positions and then creating three," Trustee Larry Earman said.

In addition to the salary cost in connection with the naming of an additional captain, the number of hours in a year in a 24-hour-on, 48-hour-off scenario is greater than those worked in a standard 40-hour, five-day-a-week scenario.

Earman said both schedules have variables, but the former averages to about 2,900 hours a year and the latter to about 2,080 hours a year.

Kaufman also announced Assistant Fire Chief Bob King would retire in July.

The trustees said they would wait until King's replacement is named before implementing the change in the captain structure.

Four people have expressed interest to succeed King. They are battalion chiefs Jeff Warren and Joe Russell, Lt. Ted Kienzle and Capt. Eric Manske of the fire-prevention bureau.

An executive session was held May 13 to begin the interview process.

Once King's position is filled, the trustees will need to fill any vacancy that promotion creates, as well as hire a new captain.

When that is accomplished, the department will seek to hire at least three and possibly four new firefighters, Earman said.

"We've been understaffed for a few years, but we did not want to hire new firefighters just to turn around and lay them off," Earman said. "We also had been putting off some major expenses for the past 18 months until we knew where we stood (with the levy)."

The expenses include the purchase of a replacement engine for about $400,000 and a replacement medic unit for about $200,000. Both pieces of equipment would be for Station 83 at 4283 Davidson Road.

Station 83's current engine and medic unit would become backups, and the current backups would be sold.

"We will order those (soon) but they won't go into service until next spring," Earman said.

The township also plans to purchase a new Ford Explorer for one of the battalion chiefs.

In other business at the May 9 planning session, trustees discussed the township's initiative to transfer emergency-dispatching services from the Hilliard Division of Police to the city of Dublin's communication center.

Earman said trustees expect to see a draft of the agreement this month and hope to have dispatching services moved no later than Oct. 1.

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