Eagle district starts levy talk

HUBBARD — The Eagle Joint Fire District began levy discussions Monday to hire part-time firefighters.

Several volunteer firefighters attended the meeting to discuss the possibility of a levy with the fire district board and fire Chief Ron Stanish.

“People were shocked that we don’t have people here at the fire department,” said board chairman Ray Fallen.

The Eagle Joint Fire District, which serves Hubbard and Hubbard Township, is all-volunteer where firefighters are paid per call. The majority of the volunteers work full-time jobs, leaving the district understaffed during the day. The daytime volunteers are growing older, which is another district concern.

“You’re starting to see the snow on the roof here, and we’re getting to a point where we can’t really do the job,” said volunteer Ken Mauch. “I mean I’ll do what I can.”

Fallen drafted a 1-mill levy proposal that would cover the $156,000 it would take to fund part-time staff during the day. The proposal did not include items such as training, turnout gear or captain’s salaries in the cost. Fallen assured those at the meeting this draft wasn’t set in stone, and he needs the district’s input before writing a formal resolution.

“Anytime you put a levy on and when asking for tax dollars, we’ve got justify exactly what you’re asking for. And we have to have some concrete numbers,” said board member Rick Hernandez. “I discussed it with the trustees, and we’re all in agreement that you can’t have a situation where you’re not having manpower to fight a fire. We need — we definitely need — manpower.”

A concern the volunteer firefighters had with the staffing proposal was response time.

“I just get nervous that from 8 (a.m.) to 4 (p.m.), you can be to my house in a minute and a half, but after 4 o’clock, who knows?” Scott Thomas said.

The volunteer firefighters suggested forming a committee among themselves to sit down and go over everything that needs to be factored into the levy. This committee will meet prior to a special meeting at 6 p.m. June 5 at the fire station to discuss what they need from the levy, including how many firefighters would need to be hired, at what rate, how many hours they’d work, training and equipment.

Tentative proposals included hiring 10 part-time workers at $15 per hour for eight-hour shifts or 10 part-time workers at a lower rate for 12-hour shifts to cover more than a third of the day.

In addition to staffing the district, the equipment levy is expiring at the end of this year. The board agreed they need to renew that levy at the same rate while introducing the new levy.

The board is considering two options — either combine the new levy with the renewal, or keep them separate. If the levy and renewal are combined, the district would ask for closer to a 2-mill levy.

Some of the volunteers had no issue with combining them, but others saw it as a risky move because if it doesn’t pass, the district will be left with nothing.

“You might be paying more, but you’re getting a lot better service,” Thomas said.

“Everything has to be done by Aug. 1, which is 90 days before the November election. So we got to get rolling,” board member Mike Pieton said.