Voters in Bethel Township will decide whether or not the fire department will be able to increase the salary for their first responders and provide them with the much needed funds to replace equipment that is due to expire. The 2 mill levy that appears on the November 7, 2017 ballot is estimated to bring in just over $ 397,700 per year for the township. The cost for the owner of a $100,000 home is estimated at $70 per year by these figures were provided by the Clark County Auditor.
Bethel Township maintains two buildings for their fire and EMS equipment. The buildings had to replace a few years ago due to environmental concerns for one and the need to be able to house the modern equipment that has increased in size since the older buildings were put into use.
Trustee Nancy Brown reports that the department “needs to maintain volunteers”. This is supported by Bethel Township Fire Chief Jacob King. King reports that currently the department is staffed from 6 am until 6pm by paid part time personnel. The remaining twelve overnight hours are staffed by part time volunteers who are called out if an incident is reported. “We need to maintain our volunteers and provide adequate and appropriate equipment” said King of the need to increase pay and provide new equipment. According to Brown and King, some of the items such as the “bunker gear” and the self contained breathing apparatus is expiring and must be replaced. Cuts in state funding could not have been anticipated reported Brown regarding the increased need at the local level. She also noted that reimbursement from Medicade calls has been reduced and has impacted on a department who has a number of calls each year for patients with this type of coverage.
King reports that the combined fire and EMS department responds to an average of 2,100 calls per year. He estimated that his department has made over 1,400 to date.
Currently the pay for a certified paramedic is $14.75 per hour and has not been increased in over three years. Other departments in the area are also experiencing a need to increase pay amounts. Brown noted that the passage of the levy would allow the township to address the need to bring additional members to the department to continue the 24/7 coverage expected by residents.
A private sector medical transport service is paying just over $22 per hour and this has impacted on a number of departments when it comes to equal pay for services and certifications. Recruiting for fire and EMS departments has become more difficult for area departments as there also appears to be a decline in the number of individuals with proper certification in the Miami Valley.
King explained that the department has paid for the training of residents to become a fire fighter or EMT. Non-residents had been reimbursed for some training courses with proof and application approval for a course in the past. The levy would also help with the training and certification and could improve the number of volunteers for the department. The department has an active Cadet program that could also provide additional volunteers if the funding for training is in place when they are old enough to join the department as a member.
Voters should note when making their decision on funding that the department has no control over the life of equipment such as the bunker gear. New regulations mandate that departments replace equipment in a timely manner. Equipment that once had no lifetime limit is now mandated to expire even if it were never used for example.
“It takes a special person to do this job” said Brown of the individuals that serve the Bethel Township community. “We have some great people” in the department and she hopes that the community will rally the votes needed to support the fire and EMS department personnel and equipment.