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Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

Trustees look at fire protection

By William Kincaid
Liberty Township Trustees have no intention of dissolving the Chattanooga volunteer fire department, contrary to ongoing rumors, trustee Donald Stachler says.
In spite of Stachler's assurances, various concerned citizens and firefighters publicly are complaining about the Liberty Township Trustees going behind their backs seeking fire protection from other nearby fire departments.
Stachler defended the action. He said the state fire marshal's office sent a letter to the township trustees in August stating the Chattanooga Fire Department was not in compliance with Ohio regulations. Stachler said it was the responsibility of the township trustees - who also include Randy Thomas and Ron Linn - to look elsewhere for fire protection if the problem was not resolved.
The trustees, Stachler said, did contact other departments, including Rockford's Fire Department.
"They (the firefighters) accused us of going behind their back," Stachler said, before adding it was simply bad communication.
Assistant Chattanooga Fire Chief Greig Brehm said the state fire marshal in recent years has required all fire departments to have a computerized system for relaying accident information to the state. That was the compliance issue with the state.
Brehm said his department got a state grant to purchase the needed computer and printer. By the time all of the paperwork was processed and the computer was uploaded with street information, the department was issued the out-of-compliance letter by the state.
He said the computer was ready in September. Brehm also said the state fire marshal's office told him it sent a letter to Liberty Township Clerk Kathleen Bransteter informing township trustees that the Chatt fire department was now in compliance.
Brehm said he felt as if he had been stabbed in the back when he learned the trustees spoke to other local fire departments before talking with the Chattanooga fire fighters.
Stachler countered that the trustees have neither the intention - nor the authority - to dissolve the Chattanooga Fire Department, which was established as a chartered independent entity with its own board of trustees in 1950.
The real problem is the fire department has not followed its original bylaws in two decades, Stachler said.
When asked for specific examples, Stachler mentioned the management of the fire department. He also said some of the township's constituents are concerned about how the books are being handled.
Brehm emphatically denied the department misused any money, pointing out the department has made only some of many needed improvements - including the purchase of a jaws-of-life - through prudent savings of levy dollars.
This summer, the department learned its well pump, which Brehm said has been in use for at least 20 years, needed to be replaced. The total cost was $16,000.
Brehm said he was upset the township trustees only offered to pay $3,000. Although the township trustees are responsible only for allocating the fire-levy money to the department, Brehm said he wishes they would help out more.
Even with the replaced pump, Brehm said the department's well is not pumping the amount of water it should. The problem may be associated with the well, but Brehm said he's not certain of the cause.
Brehm also said the fire department has never asked for anything other than the voter-approved levy money.
Stachler explained the trustees were given an original pump-replacement estimate significantly lower than the $16,000 figure. He said the trustees want the firefighters to work by the original bylaws, but did not give specific examples of what bylaws were not being followed.
"The fire department is a good fire department," Stachler said, adding that the volunteer firefighters are good as well.
The Liberty Township Trustees next meeting is 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at the township house at 9930 state Route 49, Rockford. Among other things, the fire department may be discussed, Stachler said.
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