By Jeff Gallatin
Bay Village is a long way from joining a fire district with other Westshore cities, Bay Village Mayor Debbie Sutherland said Friday.
During City Council’s committee sessions April 7, Sutherland fielded questions from residents asking if the city’s being one of four accepting the $100,000 Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund for the next phase of the Westshore’s regional fire district study means Bay Village is going to be in a regional fire district for certain, along with Fairview Park, Rocky River and Westlake. Sutherland noted April 7 that all the cities have to formally approve taking the grant before they get the money. She said on April 7 and re-emphasized Friday that the latest grant received for the study will primarily be used for a professional facilitator, who will help the cities continue to study the issue and find the best ways to combine services if that is what they choose to do.
“The process has taken several years and is going to take a lot more time before it reaches its conclusion,” she said. “We’re a long way from being in a regional fire district or department, as are the other cities at this point.”
She noted that for Bay Village and other cities to do that, there will have to be many more actions taken – including having each city formally agree to do so.
“We’ve had other cities (Lakewood and North Olmsted in Cuyahoga County) who were with us earlier in the process and who are no longer involved. This just allows us to further consider what it entails,” she said.
Sutherland said after the facilitator is hired, that person will focus primarily on helping the four cities consider how a fire district would handle issues such as having joint training and other ways of bringing common practices to the communities in the district. She said the four cities still involved already have some common points.
“We’re involved in the joint dispatch center together at St. John (Medical Center), and we already respond to each other on mutual aid calls as well as some training exercises together,” she said.
While agreeing when asked that Bay Village is strongly considering the joint fire district, Sutherland said considering joint training and implementing other practices together still doesn’t mean Bay Village or any of the other cities is going to join a fire district for certain.
“It is an advantage for us that we already do some things together as cities with our fire departments,” she said. “But it’s possible that we could find some ways of doing training or other things together, and find we can implement them but that we don’t need to join a fire district.”
Steve Kaye, president of the Bay Village Fire Department union, said the union still has concerns about a regional fire district.
“In November of 2012, the citizens of Bay Village expressed their disapproval of participating in a regional fire department by voting down Issue 5,” he said. “This was followed by more than a 15-month hiatus in J.I.C. regionalization meetings. Despite the 2012 vote and the lack of communication among the four cities and their citizens, we are surprised to find a complete merger is still an option. However, keeping the wishes of the citizens in mind, we support improving services via joint training and equipment acquisition programs.”
City Council approved accepting the grant at the April 14 council