ENGLEWOOD — During a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday, June 1 on the front lawn of the Englewood Government Center, the cities of Clayton, Englewood and Union announced the official launch of a “Joint Emergency Services Collaborative Memorandum of Understanding.”
Englewood Mayor Tom Franz opened the press conference with a welcoming message, and introduced city council members, city managers, fire chiefs and other staff present from each jurisdiction.
“This collaboration is unique,” Franz said. “A great deal of hard work over the past several months by the fire chiefs has resulted in a cooperative plan. This plan will greatly improve fire and EMS services delivery while enjoying impressive, long-term cost savings by reducing redundant apparatus purchases and implementing numerous other operational efficiencies.
“This collaboration is not a pipe dream,” Franz added. “In fact, we are all here today to announce that the actual implementation began at 7 a.m. this morning. We are all confident that this creative endeavor will be a huge success.”
The three cities have agreed to maintain and staff the following emergency service stations relevant to the Memorandum of Understanding:
• Clayton Station 85 located at 6996 Taywood Rd.
• Englewood Station 98 located at 333 W. National Rd., and Station 99 located at 1099 Union Blvd.
• Union Station 81 located at 109 W. Martindale Rd.
Each city will contribute to the collaboration with apparatus and / or equipment and will provide staffing and coverage areas as set forth in the agreement and will provide emergency response coverage by the closest available fire station, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.
“On behalf of the city of Clayton that I am really proud to collaborate with our fellow citizens here, our neighbors,” said Clayton Mayor Mike Stevens. “We’ve worked together well for a long time and now it’s going to be even tighter. Not only is this going to give us the efficiencies and resources, but it will also serve more people better in the Northmont community. I am very happy that we could all join together, and we are proud to stand with you.”
Mayor Franz turned the podium over to the fire chiefs, who he credited with doing the hard work to launch the collaborative.
“This started three or four months ago once the city managers gave us the go-ahead to really dive into how to make this work,” said Clayton Fire Chief Brian Garver. “It came about because of some of the challenges that the fire departments are facing locally, and not just locally but nationally with staffing.”
Englewood council recently amended an ordinance to allow the fire department to hire nine additional firefighters (which could be either paramedics or EMTs). Clayton and Union have also faced staff shortages.
Many communities in the Miami Valley are facing similar issues. The increase in job openings is due in part to the number of firefighters reaching retirement age.
A large percentage of firefighters were hired in the 1980s when fire departments were transitioning from all-volunteer staffs to paid staffs. The recent large turnover rate is something many communities haven’t experienced in years and it is affecting the hiring pool, largely due to fire academy enrollment dropping off in recent years.
Garver said the three departments came together to try to figure out how to improve staffing to improve better coverage and response times to the entire area regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.
All three departments have fire stations that are closer to certain areas not necessarily within their own jurisdiction.
Garver noted that all three departments were always minimally staffed throughout each day in recent years and unable to send enough apparatus as preferred with the correct staffing needed.
“Joining up, we make it safer for our firefighters, we make it more efficient and effective for our community and our fire personnel are now able to go to work as soon as they arrive and do things even more effectively than they have before,” Garver noted.
The three departments started training together about two years ago, according to Garver, because each department knew they needed each other’s help.
“So, we started training about two years ago and it has just turned into a collaborative that is going to benefit the entire area, which is what we want,” Garver said.
Garver also discussed the cost savings that would be realized as a result of the collaborative agreement.
“There is redundancy is our apparatus,” Garver stated. “In the next 15 years, which is a capital improvement cycle, we are estimating to save about $5.2 million respectively among the three cities, which is a big dollar amount. Through this collaboration we are going to make this more effective from a financial standpoint.”
Garver noted that the fire chiefs, along with Union Assistant Chief Zach Marvin, all make decisions as a group now, which is unique to public safety as there is usually one person making all the key decisions.
“The four of us work very well together and come to decisions just by talking it out, which is unique,” Garver said. “I give credit to the chiefs for really collaborating and putting aside their own department to decide how to best serve the entire community and not just their own. I am proud to be standing up here with all these guys because they make it work. We appreciate the support from each of our city councils and city managers in that they are willing to allow us to go through this process and trust us.”
Garver also credited fire personnel from each jurisdiction for supporting the effort.
“Their buy-in was instrumental to this,” Garver added. “If they didn’t buy into this, it doesn’t matter what we do. We have had buy-in from all of our personnel. They have embraced this, taken it and run with it and without them being so onboard and having the same vision that we do, this wouldn’t work.”
The departments will share personnel assigning them to work at each city’s fire stations to help cover those jurisdictions when needed.