EAST PALESTINE - The full-time fire chief position being vacated by Brett Todd for retirement is drawing interest from a lot of people, mostly from out of the area, Village Manager Pete Monteleone said.
He said that since the retirement announcement about two weeks ago roughly 15 applications have been turned in already. The village will accept applications for another month before reviewing them for interview selection.
Village Council will be involved in the hiring process although the final decision will fall on Monteleone, and he said he would like to form a hiring panel that will also help during the process.
Applicants must have completed Firefighter 240 class, and Monteleone said at least two to three years management experience is preferred. The village would also prefer someone with as least basic training as an EMT.
State law does not mandate the chief has to be a resident of the village, although Councilman Fran Figley believes that should be a requirement.
"That should be changed. The chief should live in town," he said.
Todd took over as chief 12 years ago, replacing Merle Stewart, and lives in the village. His retirement is effective on Sept. 14 and he is currently making $54,000 a year.
The position is the only salaried one on the department, with volunteer firefighters and officers only paid for calls they take.
Monteleone said no one from the department has applied yet, although he believes there is interest and that those applications will likely be coming in soon.
In the meantime, Todd and Monteleone met recently with Covington nursing home employees to discuss the possibility of the department handling emergency and non-emergency transport calls there, Monteleone said.
"He (Todd) said lately we were getting more emergency transport calls from Covington," he said.
Covington was using a private ambulance service and Figley had suggested in March looking into whether the department could take over those calls as a way to gain more revenue. He also said the business should use the local department since it was granted a 15-year tax abatement through the village for water and sewer service.
At that time Todd said the department could not handle non-emergency transports due to lack of manpower, and that was also discussed during the Monday meeting.
(Monteleone said Todd has since told him the department would be making very little money if they did take on non-emergency transports.)
The village has begun the process of acquiring a new ambulance but Figley did not approve of doing so, stating the department needs to focus on getting more personnel.
Council approved giving first reading to legislation to begin financing through Huntington Bank for the 2014 Osage Super Warrior Type III ambulance that would cost $109,000 over five years at 2.90 percent interest.
The ambulance is on a state contract and the interest rate through Huntington is the lowest of those offered through Republic First National Bank, PNC Bank and First National Bank, according to the legislation.
Figley believes the village doesn't need to be spending money on a new ambulance when it is not paying EMTs and Paramedics enough money to retain them or attract new ones.
Councilman Don Elzer pointed out the department did not have an emergency crew available seven times in May and 14 times in June for mutual aid calls.
"We need to find a way to have people ready at all times. What we are doing right now does not work ... we have to come up with something new," he said.
Under the current schedule EMTs and Paramedics work 12 hour shifts but are only paid for two hours if they don't respond to any calls. If they respond to calls they are only paid for the hours they are on the call.
"I thought there was something we could do to acquire the EMT people but I see we are still going on with the new purchase of the ambulance ... I object to that," Figley said.
He also said the average calls taken by EMS - about two a day- doesn't warrant the need for another ambulance. The department already has three.
In November of 2013 when Todd first began discussing the new ambulance with council, he said it would replace the 1998 Marquee Ford diesel engine ambulance with 116,000 miles, worn suspension and unreliable transmission.
The village will use a combination of levy funding and money received from Billy "Shorty" Longanecker's estate to help pay for the vehicle.
Monteleone told Figley his concerns have not fallen by the wayside, but he is waiting to see who will become the new chief before making any determinations on non-emergency transports and recruitment and retention of first responders.