Fire district hires consulting service

HUBBARD — The Eagle Joint Fire District recently held a lengthy discussion on whether to consult with Kramer and Associates Fire / EMS Consulting of Cincinnati about its quest to become a paid department rather than a volunteer one.

At a meeting last week, the fire board ultimately voted to consult with William Kramer and his company, but the decision was not favored by the firefighters.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” said board President Ray Fallen on why the board was considering using a consulting service. He said previously he wants to make sure the fire district does this right so it doesn’t have to revisit the process.

The board hired Kramer to analyze and assess the fire district to help them with its transition from a volunteer fire district to a staffed department.

“It’s his (Kramer’s) specialty, he’s going to come up with a five-year master plan for us,” said district fiscal officer John Morris.

The board had about a half-hour teleconference with Kramer so he could explain the process and so it and the public could ask questions.

“There is a nationwide problem with recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters. We don’t want to discourage them; we want to enhance their reach and efforts,” Kramer said. “The advantage I have is that I can bring a neutral, third-party perspective and can compare what has worked in other districts and see what will work here.”

The cost of the consulting service will not exceed $10,000.

“The ultimate decision-makers are the citizens of Hubbard,” Kramer said.

He said this is a two-step process beginning with a levy proposal. Step two is configuring where the funds are allotted if the levy passes. Part of his analysis will be determining if the department should be staffed part time or full time.

Now, firefighters are paid per call, but because most of them work other jobs, it is difficult to get firefighters to respond during the day, meaning the department has to rely on mutual aid from neighboring departments. The Eagle Joint Fire District serves Hubbard city and township.

“The plan is to get the funding quickly,” Kramer added.

Fallen said they hope to get a levy on the primary election ballot on March 17, 2020.

After hearing from Kramer, the decision to contract with Kramer did not come easily as the room was divided.

“The firefighters thought it was a waste of money, but it went back and forth — to consult or not to consult. There were strong opinions on both sides,” Morris said. “They all feel we can do this in house.”