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Chiefs to meet on possible fire district

GIRARD — With interest from Liberty and Weathersfield officials in forming a fire district, Girard fire Chief Ken Bornemiss will set up a meeting with chiefs from the two townships to study the pros and cons.

Mayor James Melfi told city council Monday that Bornemiss will begin the talks first with Liberty fire Chief Gus Birch and Weathersfield fire Chief Tom Lambert to go over the advantages and disadvantages of forming a district involving the three communities — and possibly others.

“We are going to let the fire chiefs begin the talks, who will then report to their officials what has taken place. We will see what they come up with, and then the leaders will sit down,” Melfi said.

Safety-Service Director Jerry Lambert said officials are taking a different avenue with the fire district idea, with the chiefs who understand what will be involved meeting first.

In late 2020, Girard council approved the administration’s reaching out to neighboring communities to talk about possibly forming a fire district. Melfi said officials from McDonald and Hubbard also have expressed interest in the idea.

“All the trustees from Liberty and Weathersfield informed us they are interested in talking about this,” he said.

Bornemiss said it’s hard to say if a district will work.

“There will be a lot of legal questions that need to be answered if a fire district is formed with two or more communities. The district would need to be covered by a board,” he said.

Brian Pearson, union president for the Girard firefighters, indicated a public meeting was held in 2017 in Liberty to discuss the idea of a fire district but did not advance beyond one meeting.

First Ward Councilman Keith Schubert of the council’s safety committee said it is important to do the research if a district would be financially feasible.

Bornemiss said the fire department in 2020 had 1,837 total calls with 1,308 emergency medical service, 401 fire rescue, 108 fire prevention and 20 miscellaneous. In comparison, 2019 totaled 1,973 calls with 1,299 emergency medical service, 476 fire rescue, 166 fire prevention and 32 miscellaneous.

“We were down last year by 7 percent compared to 2019. The mutual aid was also down. COVID was a factor of less calls when it first began in March and April, and there was less fire inspections for safety,” Bornemiss said.

Bornemiss also reported eight of 13 firefighters have had both doses of the Moderna vaccine, with three who have previously had COVID-19 asked to wait — and two who declined the vaccine.

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