GAMBIER — College Township trustees raised concerns Wednesday with a soon-to-be-terminated fire and EMS services agreement with Monroe Township. The agreement is set to expire at midnight Dec. 31, and concerns included response times via mutual aid for a Monroe Twp. Fire Department that has yet to come into existence.
Laura Webster, Knox County 911 operations director, offered that “nothing will change as far as (911) procedure and dispatching.” And, “as far as mutual aid goes, that’s between the (fire) departments.”
Currently, Monroe Twp. does not yet have a functioning fire department of personnel with a chief, although it does have a fire station at 13980 Wooster Road, in addition to vehicles, including a pumper, a ladder truck and a vehicle for grass fires.
College Twp. Trustee Doug McLarnan said there are issues that involve Monroe trustees needing to turn over equipment by Dec. 31 that is owned by the College Township Fire Department. That equipment includes eight air tanks that are part of fire turn-out gear, as well as radios, computers and other items. McLarnan, who presided over Wednesday’s meeting, said any discussion about what must be turned over to College Twp. must include county Prosecutor Chip McConville. His presence is necessary because “we don’t want a free-wheeling discussion,” McLarnan added.
McLarnan, who attended Wednesday’s meeting with fellow trustee Chuck Woolison, indicated another concern of his will involve small “delays” Monroe Twp. is likely to endure via mutual aid response until its fire department is fully functional. Though College Twp. will still assist Monroe when mutual aid response is required, the tone signal from 911 for mutual aid will take four minutes to go through. Right now, and for the next 19 days, the direct response from the College Twp. Fire Department would be nearly immediate following a 911 call and dispatch, McLarnan said. He added that College Twp. has no knowledge of how far Monroe has progressed in forming its fire department because there has been no dialogue between the two entities.
McLarnan said he is also aware from reading the News that Monroe Twp. trustees have decided to go with a private company, Pro Care Medical Transportation Services, for EMS services under a temporary four-month contract starting Jan. 1. Pro Care has committed to staffing the Monroe Fire Station a minimum of 10 hours per day. He also noted that Monroe will be receiving mutual aid from fire stations including the Eastern Knox County Joint Fire District and its stations in Howard and Danville.
Kachen Kimmell, mayor of the Village of Gambier, said it appears as though Monroe Twp. will be receiving free fire service via mutual aid for an indefinite period. McLarnan said College Twp. will “assure that’s there’s coverage” when mutual aid is needed but said the issue of returning property owned by College Twp. Fire Department is certainly a priority.
“We intend to have possession of all our stuff by the end of the year,” McLarnan said, adding that he mentioned this to McConville, “who knows what it means.” Both stations have received grant funding to pay for power-lift cots for medical transportation, which cost $40,000 each. College Township also just leased two heart monitors, and will operate both due to the terminated fire and EMS contract with Monroe. Monroe may keep its ladders, he added.
Without having to cover Monroe under a fire and EMS contract, College Township Fire Department will have to adjust its staffing levels as needed, McLarnan said. Currently, College Twp. employs Fire Chief Bill Smith, another full time-firefighter, 20 part-time firefighters, eight trained volunteer firefighters, and five new ones from Kenyon College, students who have yet to be trained. Though mutual aid will come from other fire departments as well including the Eastern Knox County JFD, Smith noted that due to its proximity to Monroe Twp. and U.S. 36, it would be the most likely one to respond to fire calls in Monroe due to closest proximity.
Mark Kohlman, Kenyon College’s chief business officer, said the issues left to resolve with Monroe over equipment seem fairly simple and should be resolved soon. He also noted that Monroe Twp. did not give College Twp. the required six months advance notice to terminate their fire and EMS agreement as required.
Martha Rambo, College Twp.’s fiscal officer, noted that Monroe did not respond to a certified letter sent Nov. 16 by College to ask for its contract status with College Twp. The letter asked for a response by Dec. 4 but was returned through the mail, unsigned. She then recommended that McLarnan and Woolison immediately approve a resolution officially terminating fire and EMS service with Monroe Twp. effective at midnight, Dec. 31. They agreed by a 2-0 vote, with trustee Barry Bowden unable to attend the meeting.
Smith said he has already removed Monroe Twp. from the College Township Fire Department logo, and said that will soon happen to equipment and vehicles as well. Rambo said she is also canceling College Twp.-provided insurance for Monroe.