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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2011

Northwood council OKs outlay to train firefighters

Law director hiring tabled in Oregon

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Northwood City Council agreed last week to use $20,000 of revenues from the city's red-light cameras -- which typically are used for safety purposes -- to train firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians.

The city is trying to rebuild its fire and rescue department, which now has 39 members, down more than a dozen from its peak. Some families involved in the department have moved out of the community, but Northwood is loosening its requirement that volunteers live within the city limits if they are close enough to respond quickly, Administrator Dennis Recker said.

"Small-town fire departments, they're family departments, and that's where you recruit from," Mr. Recker said. "It's a drop-off. It's not catastrophic, but we are trying to … turn it around."

Northwood is looking at working with Owens Community College and other organizations to see if they can recruit students to help with firefighting and emergency medical services, Mr. Recker said. The department is made up mostly of volunteers who are paid by the call.

Mr. Recker said city council is continuing to consider changing the fire chief's position from full time to part time, which would save more than $60,000 a year and probably would be temporary. Tim Romstadt has resigned as full-time chief but at his request was reassigned to deputy chief, a part-time position.

As of April 23, Northwood has had two firefighters, typically a paramedic and EMT, on duty from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, which is when 60 percent of calls occur, Mr. Recker said.

It also increased to $4 an hour from $2.75 the pay for those who carry pagers and are the primary responders on evenings and weekends.

"It's only really because people care about the community and making themselves available," Mr. Recker said.

Also last week, Northwood City Council approved a Community Reinvestment Area Agreement with McNerney Development LLC, which plans to construct a 20,400-square-foot building in its industrial park off Tracy Road in hopes of attracting a business. The 10-year agreement calls for an exemption from the property's real estate taxes to the city only, not the school district, which is worth about $375,000.

Meanwhile, Oregon City Council agreed last week to renew a $2,500-a-year contract with Lucas County to provide dog control services through the dog warden until Dec. 31, 2013. City officials had considered forgoing the contract but decided city police needed the service at times.

Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian tabled the $49,000-a-year appointment of Paul Goldberg as law director starting July 1 after Councilman Sandy Bihn questioned the job description and terms of the proposed agreement. She said council should see the final document before approving it.

Mr. Goldberg, who has been Oregon's law director on contract at more than $150,000 annually, retired at the end of April.

He would get vacation, sick time, and health-care benefits if he became a city employee, but he would not accrue vacation time upon leaving, said Michael Beazley, city administrator.

The hope is to have Mr. Goldberg serve as law director for 18 months to two years so another attorney could be found, Mayor Seferian said. Mr. Goldberg cannot be rehired for 60 days, so there is time to work on a final agreement and present it to council for approval, he said.

"It's really not a problem -- time is not a factor," Mayor Seferian told council. "We've got 60 days."

He added: "We want everyone to be comfortable with that."



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