Oregon fire department gets new chief

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council approved the appointment of Dennis Hartman, of Williston, as the city’s new fire chief. Hartman became acting chief after former Fire Chief Paul Mullen retired Jan. 1.  
        The appointment became effective immediately. Hartman was sworn in by Mayor Mike Seferian during the council meeting.
        The starting pay rate for Hartman is $49.08 per hour, or $102,103.30 annually, according to Seferian.
        “I’d like to thank everyone for the support that I received,” said Hartman at the meeting. “Since starting here, especially as acting chief, I appreciate the support. “
        He said the city had “some growing pains.”
        “We have some response challenges that come from a city on the move industrially. As in the rest of the U.S., we have an aging population. Change is hard. And it’s hard for everyone. It’s especially hard in a fire department. But it is necessary because of the growing number of runs. I look forward to working with all of you.”
Response time
        Last January, council expressed concerns about getting members of the volunteer part-time fire department to respond to 911 calls, which was described at the time as “a real problem.”
        Many times, dispatchers had to tone out all stations in hopes of getting personnel to respond.
        City Councilman Tim Zale said at the time that there had been 10 to 15 incidents where none or only one person from the originally toned out station had shown up during a three week period.
        He also said that response times to the actual scene had fallen well below the standards Oregon had been accustomed to.
        The information had come from a report from The Ohio Fire Chiefs Association, which conducted an analysis requested by the City of Oregon two years ago.
        The report had noted that first responders arrived on the scene within eight minutes only 55 percent of the time for EMS calls, and 43 percent of the time for fire calls. Per national standards, the city should have been arriving on the scene within eight minutes 90 percent of the time with the lowest acceptable standard being 70 percent. The report states the city had fallen short of the standard.
        Hartman told The Press after the meeting that changes made so far in the department have improved service.
        “We had 38,000 runs last year. It’s a big burden on our volunteers. So my vision is to spread the work out a little and provide more division of labor so it’s not such a burden,” said Hartman. “The station at Wheeling, for instance, averages five runs per day. That’s a lot to ask of our people.”
        Hartman said the department now schedules part-time personnel to work in shifts.
         “They can schedule out their time better than having to come in at all different hours. We’re trying to actually get more scheduled time so we actually have people on duty. Obviously, they have full-time jobs. That’s the challenge – to find times when people have the availability to work and get the schedules so people will be at the stations and respond immediately. We’ve been staffing now during the day for the last year and a half, where we have two people in an ambulance from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. In the last two months, we started staffing people working from midnight to 6 a.m. So our goal is to get staff working 24 hours seven days per week.”
        There have been discussions about paying personnel to be on call as well, he added.
        “What we hoped to do was pay $5 per hour to staff to sign up and be on call. There would be up to three people at each station on call. When a call came in, those people would respond, others wouldn’t. We’ve been working on that model, but haven’t made any progress. We’re not sure that’s the way to go. So we have to find what works and doesn’t work. The city is still largely satisfied with the part-time volunteer model we’ve had and would like to keep it. But we also have the utmost concern providing citizens with the service they deserve. We’re kind of a work in progress. We’re working to try and figure out the best way to move forward and improve those situations.”
        Also at the meeting, council approved an ordinance authorizing the city to submit an application for Water Supply Revolving Loan Account (WSRLA) Funds available through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance.
        The funding is for the Navarre Avenue Waterline Replacement – Phase I Improvement Project that will improve the water distribution system on Navarre Avenue.
        The project consists of rehabilitating or replacing 9,500 linear feet of an eight inch waterline on Navarre Avenue between Isaac Streets Drive and Lallendorf Road. The project also consists of installing an additional 7,200 feet of eight inch waterline on the south side of Navarre Avenue to provide better water access for fire emergencies and service3 connections, according to Public Service Director Paul Roman.
        The project will be funded with a $450,000 grant and $450,000 zero percent loan from the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC), and a low interest loan through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).
        The OEPA has made funds available through a Water Supply Revolving Loan Account (WSRLA) fund to provide financial assistance to communities needing to make such improvements.


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