Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016
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Police & Fire

Sylvania Township Trustees set to weigh fire levy

1.5-mill levy mulled for November ballot


Chief Jeff Kowalski said the Sylvania Township fire department, which expects to face a $1.2 million deficit by 2016, has been working to streamline operations and cut costs before turning to voters for more money.

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Sylvania Township Trustees plan to vote Tuesday on whether to go to voters in November with a 1.5-mill levy to fund the fire department.

The department, which expects to face a $1.2 million deficit by 2016, has been working to streamline operations and cut costs before turning to voters for more money, Chief Jeff Kowalski said.

Among the budget-cutting success stories is that overtime expenses have been on a downward trend since 2009, the chief said. In 2009, overtime expenses totaled about $380,000. In 2010, when Chief Kowalski became interim chief, the amount decreased to about $217,000. In 2013, expenses totaled $162,000.

Chief Kowalski credited teamwork and increased efficiency for the drop in overtime costs.

He said the department cut back on manning some community events. He also said improved morale in the department reduced sick time. The chief meets with firefighters every six months to address concerns and goals, which he believes has improved employee productivity.

He also presented township officials with a plan to hire two full-time firefighters to cover two 24-hour shifts.

The department is in the process of hiring seven part-timers, currently attending “mini fire school” before becoming available to cover open shifts.

The department has 57 unionized firefighters, and five are on extended leave because of injuries. The part-timers will help keep the overtime budget below $200,000, he said. Although incident calls increase at a rate of 5 percent annually, the department’s full-time staffing was at its peak in 2003 with 63 firefighters.

Recently, the department decided to be selective in when its ladder truck is sent to an incident.

“We don’t take the ladder truck to a Band-Aid incident,” he said.

The ladder truck, purchased in 2009 for $700,000, does not carry water. The truck is an equipment-supply vehicle armed with the Jaws of Life, fans, stabilizers for cars in accidents, a ladder to reach rooftops, and other equipment for emergency situations.

The chief said the department plans to reduce its 22-vehicle fleet to 18. The department will remove a staff car, fire engine, and mini-pumper from service by next year.

The chief said the staff has continued cost-cutting measures in the fire station by lowering the thermostat in the winter to 70 degrees and limiting the use of air conditioning in the summer.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.

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