Medina Township trustees are expected to vote tonight on whether to turn over operation of the fire department to the city of Medina.
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell is scheduled to attend the 7 p.m. meeting at the township hall to explain the benefits of the city handling fire operations for the township.
Medina City Council unanimously approved the proposal Monday, which calls for the city to provide fire services to the township for $230,000 a year, similar to its longstanding arrangement with Montville Township.
Medina Township Trustee Bill Ostmann said running the township fire department cost $623,000 in 2016. Joining with Medina “will be cheaper for everybody,” he said.
If the three-year contract is approved tonight, it would take effect immediately. It can be terminated by the city or township by written notice to the other party.
The agreement also can be terminated if a fire district is formed, which is a goal.
“I’m looking forward to this building into something bigger and better,” Medina At-large Councilman Paul Rose said.
“We’re putting it on the fast track,” Medina Fire Chief Bob Painter said. “If they approve it (today), we’re going to start interviews next Tuesday and Thursday. We’re going to move some of our people around in the short term. It’s just more cost-effective in the long run. We’re sharing resources.”
Only two of the trustees — Ostmann and Ray Jarrett — will vote on the proposal. The third, Ken DeMichael, is vacationing in Florida.
Thirty-eight firefighters are in the township department, and Painter said he would hire about 15 of them.
Hanwell said they would be covered by the Medina Civil Service Commission.
There was some concern the Medina force would not be able to get to some of the outer regions in the township fast enough if there was a fire.
“All the calls would come to central dispatch,” Painter said. “There is no big problem. If this happens Thursday night, we’re going to move one of our engines up to the Nettleton station (4869 Nettleton Road). As soon as we get the manpower, we’ll use the Huffman Road station (3803 Huffman Road) as well. Nothing is going to change. It might take a couple weeks to get it in place.”
Medina Township fire Capt. Mark Roberts has been critical of the proposal.
“My only question is, ‘Why the rush?’ ” he asked. “Why can’t we do this the way it should be done?”
Roberts, who has been on the township force since December 1991, said he expects the proposal to be approved.
“It’s a done deal,” he said. “Our only recourse is to move forward. It boggles my mind. I hope we don’t pay dearly for this. They looked at cost-savings, not property or lives.”
Eventually, the city initially hopes to form a fire district with Montville and Medina townships and possibly expand it later.
Painter said when he was hired as fire chief, one of his first questions was about a fire district.
“It’s cost-effective,” he said.
If a district is formed, agreements with the townships would be terminated, Painter explained. “Each district will (have to) get a loan or that district will go get a levy for a fire district. Then, all the (fire) levies would go away in the communities.”
He said a board would run the district.
“Right now, we want to get this going and make sure it’s functioning well, then expand it from there,” he said. “Initially, it’s going to be the three of us. If you look on the map, it makes a nice rectangle. If you look at Sharon or Lafayette townships, it’s a big area. If they come to the table, we’ll work with them.
“Fifty years ago, basically, it was a countywide department. We’re kind of going back to the way it was.”
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or email@example.com.