TIPP CITY — The ongoing discussion of the future of Tipp City Fire and Emergency Services (TCFES) between council and Monroe Township Trustees centered around the estimated funds it would take to run a combination department at Tuesday’s meeting.
According to TCFES Chief Cameron Haller, the combination staffing that was recommended by the Ohio Fire Chief’s Association (OFCA) departmental study would include approximately 41,280 full-time hours across 19 employees, 26,280 part-time hours across 21 employees, and additional volunteer hours, totaling an estimated budget of $3,339,316. Comparatively, the current staffing of TCFES utilizes 4,160 full-time hours, 43,800 part-time hours, and additional volunteer hours and totals a budget of $1,528,121 to run the department in 2021.
“We estimated high instead of low for this projection,” Haller said, referencing the budget for a combination staffing department.
Haller also addressed some staffing questions from February’s meeting, such as what private 911 services would look like for TCFES.
One of the options that would be available to the department are Rural Metro, which would require two contracts from Tipp City and Monroe Township respectively, as currently, they are two separate entities; Haller was unable to obtain cost estimations from Rural Metro as they require a formal proposal to receive estimates.
The other option was utilizing local private fire and EMS companies. Union Township Life Squad was used as an example; they have a contract with Miami County Southwest Ambulance District that is funded through the Union Township property tax levy. According to Haller, utilizing private 911 services is not recommended by staff.
Many members of council and Monroe Township trustees Phil Cox, Martin English and Greg Siefring were all in agreement that the combination staffing department is the best option moving forward.
“I think the combination is the most beneficial with everyone,” council president Katelyn Berbach said.
There was some confusion on what the difference was between a combination department with full-time employees and a full-time department; according to city manager Tim Eggleston, combination departments have full-time employees but rely on part-time staff and volunteers to fill in the hours to supplement when full-time staff isn’t available.
“We’re not getting rid of volunteers, we’re not getting rid of part-timers. We’re just trying to find a way because quite honestly, the Affordable Healthcare Act has put a damper on us,” Eggleston said. “The individuals can’t work as much as they used to, so we either at some point end up paying them benefits because they work over 30 hours, or you have to keep hiring people to fill the positions. This is why we’re at a crossroads, unfortunately.”
Currently, the department is a city department; according to city finance director John Green, if the department became a joint fire and EMS district, it would be a legally separate body made up of the city and Monroe Township and would have a contractual arrangement between the city and the township with a board of directors and a separate funding source.
“What we’re doing today, running it as a city department, it is under the city’s umbrella. When we talk about a joint fire and EMS district, it is a legally separate body that stands alone and operates by itself to provide service for whatever organizations make up that district,” Green said.
Further discussion regarding the combination staffing option for the department as well as the estimated budget and how that would be funded is planned for April; Eggleston said that he thinks council and the trustees should be able to wrap up the discussions regarding TCFES by that point.