Council, trustees discuss Fire, EMS staffing

TIPP CITY — Concerns over staffing Tipp City Fire and Emergency Services (TCFES) with part-time versus full-time employees dominated the discussion Tipp City Council had with Monroe Township Trustees on Tuesday evening.

The meeting, held virtually over Zoom, was conducted to discuss the results of the departmental study conducted by the Ohio Fire Chief’s Association, and to get input from Monroe Township Trustees on what the concerns in the community were.

“I’ve had a few of our residents reach out to me over the last couple of weeks. They know that these discussions are going on behind the scenes; one individual in particular was a former fireman for Tipp City, and he had expressed serious concerns about going to a full-time department. He just expressed to me how important it was to maintain the volunteer basis in the department. I hope we can continue down that path,” trustee Gregory Siefring said.

Many members of council echoed the same concerns of the trustees in regard to part-time versus full-time employees. Council member Mike McFarland said that he didn’t think a full-time department would be necessary and that a part-time department with “sporadic” volunteers would work out the best for Tipp City and Monroe Township. He also stated that he felt at least one ambulance should have a paramedic on board, in the event of a call for a high-risk person.

“With the amount of seniors and older population we’re getting, a lot of times older people are going to suffer the major catastrophes that I feel, a paramedic should be on duty 24/7,” McFarland said. “Whenever you’ve got cardiac issues or severe burns or something like that, I feel a paramedic needs to be available all the time.”

Mayor Joseph Gibson asked TCFES Chief Cameron Haller if having a paramedic available all the time was feasible with the current setup in place; Haller noted that it’s difficult to do so now due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidelines in place. Prior to 2015, Tipp City EMS was able to allow a paramedic to work as many hours as they wanted in order to have a paramedic on duty at all times. With the ACA, everyone is limited to 30 hours or less on average each week due to the cost factor of health insurance.

“To find enough paramedics to schedule at the right time appropriately becomes a hindrance. All part-time — that makes the number of personnel needed skyrocket, so now we’re looking for more people all the time,” Haller said.

Haller also echoed that while the department could hire part-time paramedics, the issue is that the department very rarely gets paramedics through their open application process. He said that as soon as someone becomes a paramedic, they seek out other options that offer full-time employment.

Council president Katelyn Berbach emphasized her interest in the human capital of TCFES, and wanting to focus on keeping a well-staffed department without taking away from volunteers within the department. She also noted that she wants to hear more from the employees in the department moving forward, to make sure that their best interests are also being considered as Tipp City continues to grow and move toward change.

“I don’t think this conversation is emphasizing enough that we absolutely have to function with volunteers. We need the part-timers, and maybe in the future down the road, full-timers. That’s what this transition is,” Berbach said. “I don’t know anything about fire and EMS, I know about people. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, the people have to feel connected.”

Another meeting between Tipp City Council and Monroe Township Trustees regarding the study and the next steps moving forward is tentatively planned for Feb. 23, but may be subject to change.