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Published: Wednesday, 12/10/2008

Sylvania seeks access to township fire chief for updates

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Officials from the city of Sylvania want some one-on-one time with Sylvania Township Fire Chief Frederick Welsh.

Township trustees say the chief is available - but only on the township's terms.

City Councilman Michael Brown appeared before the township trustees last week, asking if the chief could attend one staff meeting per month with Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough.

The township fire department serves Sylvania and Sylvania Township. City residents support the township fire department with their tax dollars, but it is managed by the township.

Mr. Brown said city officials want a monthly update to keep abreast of developments in the department - such as the process of building new fire stations.

"Right now, most of the information we find out about the department is second and third-hand - and we all know how reliable that information might be," Mr. Brown said.

"If the chief can attend these sessions and let us know what's going on, I think it will stop all the rumors and some of the bad feelings that are going on."

Township trustees, however, had objections to the city's plan.

"I have been to the meetings at the city," Trustee DeeDee Liedel said. "Later, I have heard discussion of those meetings at the public City Council meetings, and what I said at the smaller meeting is greatly taken out of context and not accurately portrayed at the City Council meetings.

"Once I knew that was going on, I became very concerned about sending our chief over there to City Council meetings," she said.

Trustee Pam Hanley noted the fire department prints a monthly report that could be shared at City Council meetings.

"At any point [the mayor] could appoint whoever from this committee to meet with the administrator and the chief here at the township," she said. "We'd be glad to update them about whatever they need to know."

Sylvania historian Gaye Gindy said the fire department was originally run by the village of Sylvania, beginning in 1926. But the township created its own department in 1930 and assumed control of fire service for both entities.

For a while, there was a fire board comprised of three City Council members and the township trustees. But that quickly fell by the wayside, Mrs. Gindy said.

Since then, control of the fire department always has been a contentious issue, she said.

Township officials maintain that Ohio law gives them complete control over the department. Over the years, there's often been talk of cooperation or the city forming its own department - usually during a levy campaign, Mrs. Gindy said.

Mr. Brown said the city would not attempt to interfere with the management of the department; it simply wants to try to stay abreast of developments.

"It's not an attempt by the city to tell the township how to run the fire department," he said. "We understand that's your responsibility, and we respect that."

City Council is scheduled to discuss the issue further at the safety committee meeting Monday, Mr. Brown said.

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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