Northwood city council members were divided whether to spend $139,222 annually to keep emergency responders staffed around the clock and last week pushed back a vote on next year's budget.
Fire Chief Joel Whitmore pushed the council to approve the spending so the city's ambulance would be staffed full time by two people, cutting the department's response time.
The ambulance is now staffed Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"This plan will give the city the biggest bang for the buck," Chief Whitmore said.
But some council members said that in case city revenues slip, they didn't want to spend more on fire services.
Councilman David Gallaher questioned if problems with the fire department beyond the staffing levels need to be fixed before the council spent $139,222 on full-time staffing.
"This is a big chunk of money," Mr. Gallaher said.
The chief responded, "I really don't think it's that big of an expense when you're talking about people's lives."
Beefing up staffing would reduce the fire department's response time to an average of 4 to 5 minutes from the current 8 to 13 minutes, Chief Whitmore said.
He said that six times this year the city called nearby Rossford or Lake Township authorities for backup because it did not have emergency responders available.
The city is facing a lawsuit stemming from a Northwood man's death March 5 after his wife allegedly called 911 three times in 22 minutes.
The council did not take a vote last week on the chief's recommendation -- which would make up 24 percent of his proposed $584,000 budget next year -- and decided to study the finances further.
Police Chief Thomas Cairl asked the council to promote a detective sergeant to captain to replace a sergeant who resigned and rehire a laid-off police officer.
The changes would put 14 officers on the street, up from the current 13, he said.
The council did not vote on Chief Cairl's request.
In other action, the council voted 4 to 3 against giving the mayor and council members an 11 percent salary increase next year.
The officials' salaries were cut in 2010 because of the bad economy, and the proposal would have returned their salaries to the levels they were since 2003.
Mr. Gallaher said he couldn't support a salary increase after he was critical of raising the fire department's budget.
Last Thursday's meeting was the first after the Nov. 8 election for City Administrator Dennis Recker, a Whitehouse resident, who won a seat on the Whitehouse Village Council.
Mr. Recker said it was not a conflict of interest to work for both Northwood and Whitehouse because their business did not regularly intersect.
Contact Gabrielle Russon at: email@example.com or 419-724-6026.
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