Kent weighs new emergency options

City pays $25,000

Kent officials are closer to understanding whether the city should join area communities in a joint firefighting or EMS operation.

The consulting firm, John D. Preuer & Associates, began gathering data this week for the six-month study that will cost a total of $73,000.

The city of Kent will contribute about $25,000 to determine whether collaboration would be beneficial.

Kent Fire Chief Jim Williams said the study should tell the city the best way to collaborate and do business with other cities. Talk of joining forces began two years ago when Ravenna’s mayor brought the idea to the county’s attention.

“The ultimate goal is to look at efficientways to provide our (fire and EMS) service,” Williams said, adding that if they can cut response time by just 30 seconds or one minute, it would benefit the community. Williams also said there can be cost savings when cities buy fire trucks or other equipment in bulk and work together.

John Preuer, vice president of John D. Preuer & Associates, agreed.

“The recommendations will be able to show more efficient use of existing resources that can maintain or improve efficiency of services while saving dollars,” he said.

Williams said cost breakdowns for each jurisdiction are per capita. Kent will pay about $25,000 of the $30,000 total for Kent, Sugar Bush Knolls and Brady Lake – which were all included in the per capita calculations. Williams said Kent will pay its share with money from the fire department’s budget, income tax and the general fund.

Sugar Bush Knolls and Franklin Township have contracts with Kent’s fire department. Franklin Township will pay for part of the study once calculations for their share have been made.

Before moving forward, Preuer needs data from each of the six jurisdictions, which include Brimfield, Charlestown Township, Kent, Ravenna, Ravenna Township and Tallmadge. Once his eight-man team has that information, they can begin meeting with staff at each fire station for further research.

“There will be extensive amount of work in the field, meetings, evaluations with staff,” Preuer said. “And very in-depth studies of how business is provided by the existing departments.”

Bill Lillich, director of public safety for Kent, said the study runs a broad gambit of things it could potentially help with. Preuer outlined six components of the study, which include staffing, facilities, EMS delivery systems, management component, planning for fire and EMS protection and analysis of financial resources.

“We’re not going to (collaborate) if it will diminish service,” Lillich added.

Joseph Stoneberg is the assistant fire chief for the Mantua-Shalersville department, which has served both cities since the 1970s and says the benefits of such an arrangement are apparent.

“You’re obviously saving money because you don’t have three different fire departments,” he said. “Each public entity doesn’t have the same equipment.”

Stoneberg added that with any change in service there are upsides and downsides.

“Level of services is determined by what taxpayers are willing to pay for,” he said. “They have the ultimate say. It’s a good idea (to collaborate in general), but people don’t want to give up local control.”

Robert Colcchi, union president for Kent Firefighters Local 721, said the county already has a mutual aid agreement in place.

“Any department in the county can call any department in the county to respond with a piece of equipment if they need something special. That was signed years ago,” Colcchi said, adding should the city go through with the recommendations Preuer’s men make, there should be full-time professional firefighters in the outlying stations and not just in Kent.

Contact public affairs reporters Caitlyn Wachovec at [email protected]

and Kristine Gill at [email protected].