The departure of two additional full-time employees completes a plan to make the Liberty Township Fire Department financially sustainable under new budget constraints, township officials said last week.
At a meeting last Wednesday, Feb. 6, the board of trustees accepted the voluntary resignation of firefighter Bennee Minturn and the retirement of Fire Prevention Officer Lt. Sally McCann-Mirise.
Combined with the number of firefighters who resigned or retired in the past year and won't be replaced, the action caps off a plan to reduce the fire department roster by about 20 percent, from 52 to 42 full-time employees.
Officials said that reduction was necessary to balance the fire department's budget after voters rejected a levy on the November ballot. (See additional story, Page A3.)
A smaller emergency levy approved by voters Feb. 5 will provide enough revenue to keep the fire department operating, but under new constraints.
The defeated five-year, 6.6-mill levy would have generated $8.46 million annually; the five-year, 5.6-mill levy OK'd by voters will generate $7 million annually.
"Even though we were successful in passing the levy, it's a significant reduction for the fire department," said Fire Chief Tim Jensen.
Reductions made after the November levy failed also include the layoffs of 10 part-time firefighters who won't return.
Before approving Minturn's resignation, trustees approved a memorandum of understanding that will give him unemployment benefits afforded to firefighters who are laid off involuntarily.
In a letter of resignation, he wrote that he was not coerced into resigning.
Minturn was not next in line for potential reductions, but said he resigned in place of firefighter Kenny Hambrick, who has less seniority and would have been let go next if township officials pursued more layoffs.
"Kenny has a young child at home and recently found out that he and his wife were expecting another child," Minturn wrote. "I have no such responsibilities."
He added he hopes to return if firefighters are recalled.
Meanwhile, McCann-Mirise was recognized for 30 years of service to local fire departments.
"Contractors were always very impressed with her businesslike, no-nonsense de-meanor," Jensen said. "We will miss her."
She was one of three fire inspectors in the department.
Also at the Feb. 6 meeting, officials and residents thanked voters for passing the emergency levy the day before.
Final, unofficial results from the Delaware County Board of Elections showed the proposed five-year, 5.6-mill levy winning with 3,766 votes (84 percent) to 693 (16 percent).
Jim Cirigliano led a grass-roots campaign that helped pass the issue. He thanked volunteers who helped with the campaign.
"We could not have possibly come close to getting the information out that we did without the help of those committee members," he said.
Trustee Curt Sybert added: "Given the overwhelming results of the vote, their message obviously got out."