By Amantha Garpiel
TIPP CITY — The Tipp City, City Council approved a resolution to move forward with the development of a full-time combination Fire and Emergency Services department, along with multiple other resolutions and ordinances.
During their meeting on Monday, March 20, the council was presented with a resolution directing the city manager to move forward with Fire Chief Cameron Haller’s plan for a full-time department. The resolution passed in a 4-3 vote; President Kathryn Huffman and council members Ryan Liddy and Joanna Pittenger voted against the resolution.
The plan, outlined in the resolution includes hiring four new captains and 12 dual-certified emergency personnel that run on a 24 hours on/72 hours off shift rotation. The resolution was also modified during the meeting to include the capacity for up to 12 volunteer firefighters.
“I’m not going to expect to change any votes,” said Liddy. “I would just like to point out to council that based on the 10 year forecast and the projections provided by Mr. Green, this setup runs us into a deficit in 2028 of $22,719. $66,067 in 2029 and $129,608 in 2030. Passing this resolution and adopting this plan with what I believe is more full time firefighters than is needed is essentially a move forward to asking residents for a tax increase.”
Pittenger expressed her agreement with Liddy’s concerns.
“I am supportive of a full time department, I think that it’s time that we do hire more full-time employees I think that those need to be supplemented with part-timers so that we do meet the needs of the community. I don’t think that what’s been proposed here, in terms of the structure, is sustainable within our budget, that we are looking at a tax levy in the future if we continue down this route,” said Huffman. “While I respect what they’ve (the city manager and chief) presented to us, I disagree in that I don’t think that starting with this staffing model is the right choice for Tipp City. I think that we have the ability to start with something that is more sustainable within our budget, that allows us to hire the people that we need to fully staff the department while waiting to grow.”
“As I also put in my email, anytime you look three to five years out there are a lot of assumptions being made. Our income tax is going to be about eight times higher than what I originally projected for this year,” said Finance Director John Green. “A lot of things are going to change between now and 2030. The one thing I can say, is for 16 years in a row the city has added to that fund balance. I am not concerned that between now and 2030, if we stick to the plans that we have put in place, I am not concerned that between now and 2030 that we’re going to have significant budgetary problems.”
Liddy further expressed his agreement with Huffman’s statement. He feels that going in full-steam ahead is not going to be especially beneficial to the city and is why he voted against the resolution.
Council member Robert Schwab elaborated on his support for the resolution and the plan as outlined by Haller.
“I am respectful of the expertise that Mrs. Pittenger and Mr. Liddy bring to this analysis. I’m very respectful of Chief Haller and the sub-committee and steering committee and the work they did and for that reason, I completely concur with Mayor McFarland, Mr. Hawk as well. We have the mechanisms, we have the tools and the ability to communicate with the city staff if things are not working well,” said Schwab.
“I did some more research in the charter, and based on all the information I am finding, council cannot dictate how the chief wants to run his department. We have a chief who has come up with a plan that’s been presented to us. It’s up to us to go yay or nay. Not to tell him how he wants to do it but to authorize the dollars to hire what he needs to run his department. I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of times here in town we can’t send the fire truck out. We don’t have anybody, we’re down to one volunteer,” said Mayor Mike McFarland. “We’ve got to step up to the plate, we’ve got to do something. We know this is going to cost money, this is the most economical way. It’s going to cost us less over time with Chief Haller’s proposal.”
After the first round of council comments, the floor was opened up to the public. Three citizens spoke about their feelings of necessity for the combination fire department. Abby Bowling, of Tipp City, raised concerns for the loss of volunteers and that a full-time department would completely do away with volunteer firefighters. Her concern spurned McFarland’s motion to amend the resolution to include the capacity for 12 volunteers within the department. The next citizen who spoke was Lynn Shirk. Shirk shared her personal experience where she fell in her home from a seven foot height and Tipp City was unable to send an ambulance for her. The department sent out an individual to assess her injuries, but due to the circumstances of the department, Shirk had to wait for an ambulance from Vandalia to transport her to the hospital. The third individual who came to speak, Mike Hawk, expressed his concerns for the immediate need for a plan before someone is hurt and the city’s lack of ability to respond to the emergency causes serious harm.
In other business:
• Council unanimously approved an ordinance to modify the zoning code to prohibit overnight parking of semi trucks at gas stations in Tipp City.
• Council approved a resolution to enter into a community reinvestment area agreement with TSC Tipp LLC.
• Council passed a resolution to urge state and federal legislative branches to enact legislation to further protect Tipp City and its citizens from the dangers of a train derailment in the city.
• City Council authorized City Manager Timothy Eggleston to execute the 2023-2024 Fixed Volume Energy Supply Schedule with American Municipal Power Inc.
• Council approved a motion to allow for a temporary alcohol permit for the Tipp City Area Arts Council for the annual Canal Music Festival.
• Council appointed Jacob Hornberger to the Board of Zoning Appeals on a recommendation from Schwab and William “Josh” Powers to the Planning Board on a recommendation from Huffman.