MEDINA — Fire Chief Bob Painter said he came to Monday night’s budget meeting prepared to fight tooth and nail.
He didn’t have to put on the gloves.
By a vote of 5-0, City Council approved a $905,957 budget for the Fire Department, $4,500 less than Painter requested for 2012. Ward 2 Councilman Dennis Simpson and Ward 1 Councilwoman Andrea Burdell-Ware were absent.
“We, as a department, are happy. The cut is not a big cut, and we can live with it,” Painter said. “We are as lean as you can get. I had two or three meetings with my two assistant chiefs and we put in about five or six hours discussing what we could do. What we requested is what we came up with, and that is rock bottom. We’re happy with what we received, and we can work with it.”
Painter presented two options to Council. The first, which was approved, was for $910,457. Option two was for $872,333.
The second option included the elimination of the duty crew, a three-person crew that staffs one of the city’s four stations in the afternoon.
Painter said the afternoon is the hardest time for responders due to work schedules.
“Eliminating the duty crew would’ve sent us back to 1990. We can’t guarantee response during the daytime. … We only have two employees who are able to leave their employer if an alarm sounds, and that’s not cutting it. Firefighters can’t leave like they could 10 years ago,” he said.
“We’re supposed to have four firefighters responding to a call for safety issues, so either myself, the fire marshal, or our public educator would be the fourth to round out the attack crew. We work very well with Medina Township and we get automatic aid to a call, so that guarantees us two engines and eight firefighters. It really works out great, and eliminating it would’ve been a major hit.”
The duty crew is part time and is limited to 24 hours a week. They are at various stations from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
This option also included eliminating the public educator position.
“I’m not in favor of eliminating the daytime duty crew,” Mayor Dennis Hanwell said.
Councilman At-Large Paul Rose asked whether the department’s training could be trimmed.
“Is this something that we could look at? Not at the risk of the fire safety of the firefighters or the city, but could some training maybe be combined or another avenue to save money in that line of expenses?” Rose asked. “If you look at one firefighter who maybe has gone through the same training four times … pick a person, pick a training. If one person has gone through the same thing four times maybe we could cut the budget there.”
“The basic skills may be repetitive, but take any trade four to five hours a week of training to put your life on the line … I’ll fight you tooth and nail for that,” Painter responded. “I want to make sure these firefighters go home after these calls.”
Painter said training is down from 48 to 30 sessions per year after cutbacks in 2010. The state-minimum is 18 hours in three years. The training is covered by the city.
“I’m just looking at the practicality of it. During this crunch maybe we can reduce some of that,” Rose said. “Maybe get a better value out of the training.”
“We have a training committee that’s really streamlined it, so we have a variety now,” Painter said. “We run three evolutions at a time now, so nobody is standing around while drills are going on. We use the tower out at the career center more effectively now and they have the opportunity to be a lot more hands-on. They may go 30 days without putting on an air tank, and that’s a long time, so we like to keep everything fresh.”
Rose said his questions were worth addressing again in the future.
Following the meeting, Painter said safety, not the state minimum, is what’s important to him.
“It’s not matter of state minimum. I want them (firefighters) home and safe. Also, we owe it to the community to get a quality well-trained responder out to them. I was ready to fight tooth and nail. … We can look at it, but I’m not going to budge on it,” he said.
“I cut the department by one drill a month from four a month to three for two and a half hours each session and I almost had a mutiny on my hands. There’s so much on our shoulders, and what we do as a part-time department is huge.”
There are 32 part-timers on the department, he said.
“Any cuts made is going to impact service, and this has always been a lean department,” Painter said. “There are very few departments that are part time in a city of this size.”
Contact Dani Orr at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.