By Henri Gendreau
Despite the number of young boys and girls who dream of being firefighters when they grow up, the Gambier Township Fire Department is understaffed. It lacks professional, experienced members, according to Mayor Kirk Emmert. A committee headed by Emmert has since been formed to address this problem and has to recommend one of two options: to combine the Gambier department with another, larger one in Mount Vernon or East Knox, or to establish an independent fire district.
The decision will ultimately be left up to the Township Trustees, including Chair Doug McLarnan, Barry Bowden and Jim Ingerham after the committee makes a recommendation. The basic problem is not enough experienced senior volunteers, Emmert said. And the question is how to solve that problem.
Emmert said the formation of an independent district was unlikely because of how expensive it might be. It doesnt look like an independent department that would really be up to snuff is possible, he said.
According to Emmert, the formation of a committee to explore the future of the fire department is nothing new. Such committees have been formed in the past regarding this same issue, but have resulted in no organizational overhaul due to a promise of more experienced staff, who never came.
No matter how the department would be changed, Emmert said the participation of Kenyon students, who make up a majority of the volunteers, would remain vital.
Any solution has to draw on the student component very strongly, Emmert said. I think that can work out [enough volunteers] with Mount Vernon, but we need to be sure. The students are a real asset, Emmert continued.
Its an asset we need to take advantage of. Its good for the students, its good for Kenyon, its good for the Village. Its a win for everybody, I think.
McLarnan echoed Emmerts sentiment, saying, I think the volunteers provide a real safety net for the entire community.
McLarnan said the committees job was a tricky one, adding that most of the solutions would be trade-offs.
When asked if he supported a merger with the Mount Vernon Fire Department, McLarnan said it would have to be a well-structured merger, adding, If we dont have an independent department, with independent people, it is going to affect those around us.
McLarnan said it was important to fix the things you have before you move to something else.
Hopeful that a consensus can be reached within the committee, Emmert expects the group to submit a recommendation to the trustees by March 1.
Things should move along pretty quickly now, I think, Emmert said. The issues are pretty clear. All we have to do is we just have to decide.
Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at email@example.com.