HUNTINGTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — In a meeting Thursday night, issues surrounding the Huntington Township Fire Department’s EMS coverage were resolved.
During the Thursday gathering, the Board decided on a plan that would arguably improve the livelihoods of the current members of staff and residents of the township. For starters, the trustees agreed to increase the number of full-time firefighters back to three, where previously there was only one. The lone-member was the result of recent cuts the board made after they said they were running out of money. Additionally, on Thursday, it was decided the fire department employees would be receiving a pay raise of 2% of their current income.
The majority of the meeting surrounded the townships’s annual budget, and while the fire department is facing a deficit in 2023 of nearly $60,000, a new levy will be on the November ballot that if passed, will be more than enough to fix the shortfall, according to the township’s fiscal officer, Robin Snyder. Unfortunately, that money cannot be budgeted or earmarked since the issue hasn’t been passed. Money from the American Rescue Plan will be used to fund the plan in the interim with hopes the levy passes in November.
Also in attendance at the meeting was Ross County Auditor Robyn Brewster, who pledged her support to assist the township in any capacity regarding budgetary items and reviews of the levies. Her office is responsible for telling the township how much they will receive, which in the case of the newly-proposed levy would be just under $80,000 a year.
In 2021, HTEMS made 1,047 ambulance runs, according to a public records request. The year prior, the number was 948.
The trustees appointed T.J. Oyer as the new Fire Chief, effective immediately, with a probationary period of six months. Oyer was previously the department’s captain. He immediately moved for a review of the department’s policies and procedures, the hiring of a staff scheduler, and the hiring of four new volunteers and paid EMTs. Oyer said after the meeting he will be fielding applications to fill the newly-created full-time EMS positions and creating a new command staff. The vacancy was created after Larry Cuckler resigned last month amid the budgetary crisis.
In recent weeks, EMS coverage in the township went from 24/7 coverage to sometimes not having anyone on station at all; such as the case over the weekend when five people were hurt in a crash less than a half-mile from the fire department with no EMS personnel around to respond. It took nearly a half-hour for three ambulances to get there from other parts of the county while a lone firefighter worked the scene until volunteers could arrive.
The firefighters will hold their annual fish fry this Saturday starting at 10 a.m. atop their hill.
Next month, the Board of Trustees will reconvene on August 6 at 9 a.m. at the township building.