MILLBURY — Booming economic development has set a fire under the Lake Township Fire Department and its future.
“We’re going to have to go full time,” said Fire Chief Bruce Moritz at last week’s trustees meeting. “There’s nothing planned at this time, but it’s inevitable. It’s going to happen.”
Moritz’s comment came during a discussion of First Solar’s expansion and last month’s announcement that Peloton was building its first U.S. factory in nearby Troy Township.
Trustee Chairman Jeff Pettit said the discussion about full-time fire operations has been going on for some time.
“I think a lot of the smaller departments are going to end up going to that,” he said. “Eventually, it will come to this.”
Another levy request may be needed, Pettit said.
“It’s a possibility. Obviously, it’s going to take a lot more revenue to pay for round the clock,” he said. “I think there’s a good chance of that. But again I feel like the residents like their services.
“You don’t know what people’s thoughts are, if you put a levy on, but I think everyone’s accustomed to the great service we have.”
Moritz was doubtful that a regional fire department could be created.
Pettit was open to the idea, but didn’t know if it was realistic.
“It sounds good in theory. I don’t know if you’d get a lot of cooperation with it,” he said. “They don’t want to lose their own (department). … I don’t see that happening at all.”
Lake Township is expected to receive $200,000 annually in taxes from the First Solar expansion, which is planned to open in 2023.
It’s not enough to fund a full-time fire department, Pettit said. But it will be needed to help maintain roads.
“It’s going to explode up here, I think,” he said about development. “I think this (Ohio) 795 corridor is going to be a hot bed.”
Moritz said that his department doesn’t necessarily get a lot of calls from inside the manufacturing plants in the area.
“I probably can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been out at First Solar this year,” Moritz said. “It’s everything that’s going on around us.
“We have more runs out in the township on (Interstate) 280, on the turnpike, that we have out to First Solar.”
Motorist on the highways often need assistance, and that’s what drives up calls, Moritz said.
“People from Pilkington and Home Depot (in Troy Township), they pass through, they get in accidents,” he said. “We have 150 runs a year that are accidents.”
The Lake Township Fire Department has a few full-time and part-time employees, but the department’s 50 total personnel is mostly made up of firefighters who are paid on a points system — different emergencies are worth different points. Paramedics are paid approximately $16 per hour.
Moritz said it’s a challenge to compete with other companies that are offering a much higher hourly wage.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find volunteers, he said.
“People don’t want to give up time no more, because they don’t have time,” he said. “People leaving for other jobs, it is what it is. I can’t change that.”
The trustees approved the resignations of two firefighters. Cuyler Kepling has three jobs, a family and is going to school, Moritz said. Chris Lechman is also busy, he said.
Police Chief Mark Hummer, who is also the township administrator, said a full-time fire department is needed.
“We certainly have to start thinking about the needs of our community and how to provide. There’s no stone that cannot be unturned. The growth is here,” he said.
“It’s not something we’re going to do tomorrow,” Hummer said. “It’s going to happen, yes. Is it going to happen in three years, five years, 10 years? I don’t know.”
Also at the June 1 meeting, the trustees:
• Hired Blausey Construction Services LLC to provide concrete and to finish concrete footers for 18 headstones in the cemetery for $6,675.
• Approved buying a 2020 Dodge Durango Police Pursuit vehicle for $42,689 and a 2020 Dodge Durango for the fire department for $37,408 from John Jones Police Pursuit Vehicles, Salem, Indiana.
• Approved spending $2,569 to Brondes Ford for repairs to the 2014 E-450 ambulance.
• Discussed grass clippings on roadways. There’s some confusion in the Ohio Revised Code about what’s illegal, Hummer said.
“It’s kind of gray. It doesn’t say grass clippings,” he said. He has asked the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office for an opinion.