The following is quoted, with permission, from the
NorthSummit7@AOL.COM (NS7) email newsletter of 2 July 2008.
Northern Summit County communities mentioned: Vlg. of Boston Heights, Northfield Center Twp., Northfield Vlg., Sagamore Hills Twp., City of Macedonia.
Hotlinks added by Boston Heights Overlook.
July 2, 2008
Why Did Northfield Center Decide Against Continuing the Fire District Study ?
by Paul G. Buescher, Trustee, Northfield Center Township
It appears that Macedonia Fire Chief Tim Black and a few others are confused over the reasons why our Board of Trustees decided against participating in the next phases of the so called Fire District study. Some of the quotes and cheap shots thrown our way in the local newspapers confirm this confusion. Chief Black attempted to convince you that our decision was based solely on a $300 expenditure. This is the furthest thing from the truth because there is much more to this issue than a mere $300! Actually, that $300 figure could conceivably represent what it would cost each household throughout the Nordonia Hills area in additional taxes per year to implement a full fire district!
Back in 2006, talks opened to investigate the possibility of forming an actual fire district but around May of that year ALL the participants in those talks decided that it would be better to concentrate the talks and the resulting study process on a COOPERATIVE ENHANCEMENT of services, training and personnel. Again, ALL FIVE COMMUNITIES AGREED TO THIS. The primary reason for this decision was because we all knew that there were definite preliminary steps that had to be taken to see if an actual fire district would be feasible and workable.
John Preuer and associates were hired to perform a "Cooperative Enhancement" study, which was completed last year. The study outlined 79 areas for improvement for the area's departments. Unfortunately, the study failed to address the financial means to implement them. And while some of the suggested improvements were easily incorporated into the various department's operations, many of them were not.
Subsequent to the study's release, a steering committee was formed to try to work through the recommended changes outlined in the study. Subcommittees were also formed to assist the steering committee, which was composed of an elected representative from each community. Although this committee did achieve a few of the study's fundamental goals, some of the more important ones remain unresolved such as the consolidation of communications, equipment, services and training - All part of the first two phases of the Preuer study. But now, simply because a grant has suddenly become available, we are being pressured to move on to phases 3 and 4? Isn't this putting the cart before the horse? This is ridiculous! At the same time we are also being pressured by outside sources to adopt an unneeded and extremely wasteful 800 Mhz radio system - A system that would cost Nordonia Hills taxpayers (YOU) hundreds of thousands of dollars! It should also be pointed out that the proposed phase 4 of the study would cover communications so why the sudden push for the 800 system at this premature point in time? This is another prime example of the 'Grant Carrot' being dangled in front of unsuspecting officials and dazzling them until 'someone' began asking questions and presenting real opposing facts.
Chief Black recently stated in the Sun newspaper that "The timing is always right when it comes to securing grant money." He went on to call this "Free Money." Free Money? Don't count on it and remember that this is still TAXPAYER MONEY. There are always strings attached to grant money and most of us were taught that there is no such thing as a 'free' lunch.
At first glance regionalization appears to be a rational concept but when you DO YOUR HOMEWORK, and discover the true costs and reasons behind this push you begin to see a different picture and begin having second thoughts. Does all of this sound familiar? Although the now defunct soccer stadium proposal did not fall under an actual regionalization plan, there were definitely regional players and regionalism involved. Local leaders were dazzled by the plan and jumped on board immediately but then 'someone' did their homework and began asking questions and presenting real opposing facts.
Speaking of facts, I have yet to see one single written report from the steering committee or any of the subcommittees that detail or even summarize the work that they have done since their formation. Is it asking too much to find out exactly where we stand with Phases 1 and 2 before considering moving on to phases 3 and 4?
Prior to our decision not to jump so quickly into phases 3 and 4, I spoke privately with several other elected officials from our surrounding communities and not one of them were in favor of continuing the study! All of them raised the same concerns that I had. In fact, I called one of them on my way home from our meeting and when I told this person about our decision I was assured that this official would publicly support us. Obviously for political reasons this person got cold feet and told reporters a different story!
Macedonia's Chief Tim Black is a good guy and I've always respected him. However, you have to remember that he is MACEDONIA'S Fire Chief and MACEDONIA'S representative with MACEDONIA'S interests at heart. He does not necessarily share the interests of the other Nordonia Hills communities. And it sure doesn't help matters when one of his seemingly irresponsible officers brags to the other communities how his department will run the fire district and replace the current officers from the other area departments! This is the same officer who was in charge during the recent and infamous tipping over of Macedonia's ladder truck! It also seems that there was more to the intent of the study than was made public by Chief Black and his department. The word "Takeover" was used over the term Districting by their personnel during the recent subcommittee meetings. This of course did not bode well with the rest of us. MACEDONIA MIGHT BE ABLE TO ANNEX PARCELS OF LAND FROM OUR TOWNSHIP BUT IT WILL NOT ANNEX OUR FIRE DEPARTMENT AND PERSONNEL!
The command staff of our Fire Department spoke out publicly by recommending to us in the clearest terms possible that we should not fund any further studies because it was unnecessary and would be redundant in nature. They even stated that most of the "Leg work" for the first two phases of the Preuer study were done by our fire department personnel on Township time - A fact that we were not made aware of during the course of the study. It should also be noted that all the other departments contributed to the study in the same manner and on departmental time.
Our officers also recommended that we look much closer at our long standing excellent relationship with our good neighbors in Sagamore Hills and to possibly consider a joint venture with them. These are OUR officers and OUR representatives who clearly have the interests of NORTHFIELD CENTER AND SAGAMORE HILLS in their minds and hearts!
One last area of contention that I wish to address is the question of medical protocols. This is a subject that was fully explained in my last newsletter and in last week's Sun Newspaper. Macedonia is the only community that has adopted Cleveland Clinic protocols. All the others, including our department, are under the University Hospital protocols. Macedonia has refused to negotiate on this matter. Which one of these hospitals is the "Best" is not the real question here as I'm sure both provide excellent services with procedural differences. The question is why isn't Macedonia willing to negotiate this important sticking point when they are the Lone Wolf in the pack? Chief Black recently stated that, "having both is actually an advantage." The professionals I consulted with stated emphatically that the two are not compatible. It doesn't take a genius to envision the problems that could occur with a fire district if two paramedics operating under two different protocols respond as a team to a serious medical situation -- 'My protocol is better than yours..... No, mine is ..... No No, I have more seniority so we're going to use mine.' I wouldn't want to be a patient under these circumstances, would you?
The Trustees of both Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills, along with our Fire Department officers, worked hard together during the past few years to make our fire department one of best in the area. Response times have improved, new equipment has and continues to be purchased and our staffing has increased to meet the growing needs of our communities. Additionally, our Fire Department personnel have obtained thousands of dollars in grants for specific equipment purchases and training. It's also a fact that Northfield Center Fire Department now has a higher call volume than Macedonia and handles them with less staffing and at a lower budget!
The people of both Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills demonstrated their confidence in us and our Fire Department by supporting and passing individual fire levies the very first time they were put on the ballots. Can those who are the most critical of our decision say the same thing?
Many fire district plans have failed to materialize in Ohio with the most recent, as reported in the Plain Dealer, occurring this past month involving seven Cleveland area suburbs. Many of their reasons are similar to ours. Perhaps they see as I do that this regionalization push is a usurping of local control and autonomy. Chief Black stated in the Sun, "Regionalization is so important to the state and federal governments - because it makes things more efficient and saves money." Efficiency and savings for WHO? Chief Black's priorities seem to be misguided by a statement like that. OUR priorities involve our local governments and the local citizenry (YOU) and not some far removed bureaucrats in Columbus or Washington, DC or the United Nations for that matter!
Speaking of priorities, as recently as five years ago Chief Black didn't think a fire district was very important. At that time Northfield Center, Sagamore Hills and Northfield Village invited Macedonia to participate in fire district talks but Macedonia turned down the invitation presumably because it wasn't their idea and the ball wasn't in their court! The talks eventually fell apart and the idea was abandoned.
As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." We ain't broke and we don't need fixing! We just need to take our time and focus on the consolidation recommendations in the first study before rushing haphazardly and blindly into a full fire district study. That was the decision that ALL the communities made in 2006, and the reasons behind that decision are just as valid today as they were then. If anyone is guilty of creating this present situation, that guilt rests with those who chose to disregard that original CONSOLIDATION study commitment by changing the 'rules' and prematurely pursuing a full district study!
The intent of this commentary was not to get into a shoving match with Macedonia but to address the public comments made against us in the newspapers by Chief Black and others and to share the facts and rationale behind the reasons for my part in the decision of the Northfield Center Township Board of Trustees.
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