By Victor Milani
Sagamore Hills Trustees, despite hearing from angry residents for over two hours, voted unanimously Monday night, to leave The Fire District 27 with Northfield Center, and agreed to have the Macedonia Fire Department provide fire/ems service. The five year contract with an annual base of $750,000, with yearly increases, ends the 5 year Fire District, that was formed in 2010 between Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center. It also terminates the 40 year bond the two townships have enjoyed for fire/ems coverage. Both Macedonia Fire Chief Tim Black and Northfield Center Fire Chief Frank Risko were given time to address the audience. Black pointed to regionalization as a cost effective method to streamline operations, as well as maintain the current level of quality coverage being provided to Sagamore Hills by Northfield Center. Macedonia would operate from a sub station in the Sagamore Hills Park with 2 -3 men stationed at the facility. If additional manpower were needed, they would call for backup from the Macedonia station, as well as the current mutual aide agreement they have with Northfield Village. Despite numerous charts and diagrams Macedonia Chief Black and Sagamore Hills Trustee Chairman Paul Schweikert presented to sell the Macedonia agreement, the standing room only assemblage was not happy. Sagamore Hills resident, and Petition drive organizer Kim Griner was one of dozens who came out against the agreement, wanting to save the Fire District.
Ms Griner prefers Sagamore Hills tax dollars to remain in Sagamore Hills, and not help fund an ailing Macedonia general fund. Other residents were concerned about response times, noise and traffic from the new substation, and doubts if this were a cost saving move. Sagamore Hills Fiscal Officer Scott Gale made a very astute comment that no one feels either Fire Department is inferior, or better than the other, and they should be applauded. Sagamore Hills Trustees pointed to the fact that by them paying two thirds of the Fire District bill, it was no longer fiscally prudent for the Township to continue. The Sagamore Trustees pointed to having a facility situated in Sagamore Hills Park, as opposed to Rt .82 in Northfield Center, will provide faster response times to residents as well. Chief Frank Risko asked if anyone in the overflowing audience was unhappy with the service that was being provided. All but a few in attendance, seemed to favor the current coverage provided by Chief Risko and Northfield Center. Former Sagamore Hills Trustee Rosemary Snell gave an impassioned plea for the residents to have faith in the Trustees they elected, and their decisions. The debate raged on for over two hours, until the Trustees ended the audience question period. In a ten second unanimous yes vote, the 40 year fire/ems coverage association between Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills came to an abrupt end. Macedonia City Council must now approve of the same agreement at their meeting on Thursday.
All photos by Victor Milani
Northfield Center Fire Chief Frank Risko, much to his chagrin, had more to say, but was cut short. Most people in the audience wondered what went wrong with the current system, and why the rush to change without much public discussion. The majority in the audience felt that their opinions were not being heard, or given serious consideration by the Trustees they elected to represent them. Ms. Griner indicated that the Trustees have not heard the last of her, or this issue yet. Personally, I mentioned the history behind regionalization, starting in 2007 with the $30,000 John Pruher report and how it never came to fruition. The report did indicate that combining services between the communities was vital for long term survival. I still believe that to be true. I would have hoped for the formation of the agreement to be more transparent to the public, and further due diligence shown.
Both Fire Chiefs Black and Risko were both very professional in their demeanor in a very uncomfortable meeting. To both men, this is more than a job, it’s a labor of dedication and love in what they do for their communities. I would dare say you would be hard pressed to find two better Chiefs who have a passion for their towns, and the respect of their department. The promise is that all Northfield Center fireman who pass eligibility and background checks will be offered positions. What happens to Northfield Center Fire Department is up in the air. Northfield Center Trustee Paul Buescher indicated his survey of Northfield Center residents indicated a 6 mill levy would pass, if it were put on the August ballot. That new levy would generate roughly $940,000 to maintain their own Northfield Center Fire Department. Previously. Macedonia had offered to service Northfield Center for $375,000 annually. Northfield Mayor Nehez indicated that Macedonia had offered to cover Northfield Village for $600,000. Northfield Center could also galvanize services with Northfield Village, although Northfield Village seems to be doing fine as a Fire Department currently flying solo. But the lure of money from Northfield Center to Northfield Village, could change situations. Money has a way of making people do strange things. THE DRAMA CONTINUES!!