By Amanda Ensinger
At the recent Franklin Township board meeting, Franklin Township Fire Chief James Welch discussed fire department staffing.
“We just had three guys turn in their resignation,” Welch said. “That puts us at 30 guys; one more and we are at our targeted number.”
Welch said they will continue to do the best they can with the staff they have, however he said he anticipates five more firefighters leaving soon.
The fire department recently passed a 5.89-mill replacement levy. The levy increased residents’ property taxes by approximately $33 a year per $100,000 home. This was the second time the township tried to pass a fire levy. In the spring, the township tried to pass a 19.5-mill township-wide permanent levy for the fire department, but that levy failed.
Due to the first levy failing, the township looked at just asking for a renewal to keep the department afloat. As a result, this meant the department had to reduce staff to fit its new budget. The department needed to have 29 firefighters by the end of 2020. Last year at this time, they had 39 firefighters.
“When the trustees voted to put this levy on the ballot, they agreed to have only two medics and one fire engine,” Welch said. “They also agreed to reduce our staff to 29. This was the most affordable option to get a levy passed and have the least impact financially on residents.”
The township plans to keep both fire stations open but is still determining where the medics and fire trucks will be. They are continuing to look at call volume to make this decision. The township fire stations are at Frank Road and Sullivant Avenue.
“We will still be a 24/7 fire department, but we may not be able to respond to emergencies as quickly as we normally could,” Welch said. “We will have to rely on mutual aid when we can’t get to an emergency.”
The department has avoided layoffs and instead has just not been filling positions when someone leaves. This is the smallest staff the department has had in at least 15 years.
When the board approved moving forward with a smaller levy, they said it was important to communicate with the community and set expectations on the service the fire department can provide with the resources they have. To that end, Welch has been transparent with the community about the struggles the department will face even with this new levy passing.
“We are doing the best with what we have,” Welch said. “We are doing a little experimenting to see what works best.”