Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Newtown battles firefighting issues

Meeting today will explore tax, staffing solutions

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWTOWN — The Village Council Public Safety Committee is questioning whether one fire chief and six part-time firefighters are enough to cover this village of 2,399 residents.

        The committee, chaired by newly elected councilman Gary Collins, and other council members will consider a resolution at a special council meeting at 7 p.m. today in the Town Hall Building, 3536 Church St.

        The resolution is to ask the county auditor how much money a levy will generate and to get a levy proposal certified by the auditor 60 days before the May 7 primary.

        “We have not had any increases in fire calls. It is just that it is getting hard to maintain a volunteer fire operation,” Mr. Collins said.

        Councilwoman Nancy DeVore, a member of the Village Finance Committee, said members are discussing whether to ask the voters for a replacement levy or a new levy.

        “We don't have enough money in our general fund to hire the additional firefighters we need.”

        Mrs. DeVore said they need $150,000 to hire firefighters to operate 24 hours a day.

        “We are in the process of hiring five more part-time firefighters,” she said. “The volunteer fire system is hard to maintain now. We used to have volunteer firefighters living in the city. The volunteers we have now are good, but only one lives in the city.”

        Mayor John Hammon said city officials have been researching fire operations, including joint fire districts.

        “If we decide on a new levy to increase our operation, we are probably talking about a 2-, 2.5- or a 3.5-mill levy,” Mr. Hammon said. “If we are considering a replacement levy, we are probably talking about a 7-, 7.5- or an 8-mill levy. Right now our next step is to find out from the county auditor how much money the levies will generate.”

        The goal is to hire three full-time firefighters who would work 12-hour shifts every other day.

        “We may need to update or add more equipment,” Mrs. DeVore said. “Right now we have two firetrucks, a life squad and the chief's car,” she said.

        To complicate matters, the village will be searching for a new fire chief, after Chief Dan Nicewarner retires Feb. 20.


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