By Henri Gendreau
The atmosphere was somber and the mood reluctant on the night of Monday, April 1 when the Gambier Village Council unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the efforts to merge the College Township and Monroe Township Fire Departments with that of Mount Vernon.
The independent committee charged with this task, which is headed by Gambier Mayor Kirk Emmert, decided at its meeting in early March to enter into serious negotiations with the Mount Vernon Fire Department. Emmert, who has updated the Council on the committees progress, asked the Council on April 1 whether it supported such action and, if so, to approve a resolution to that effect.
While the Council unanimously endorsed the decision, and Emmert stressed that such a recourse would be beneficial to both Mount Vernon and Gambier, doubts remained as to how this would shape the future of the department.
This wont be your mothers College Township Fire Department anymore, Councilwoman Kachen Kimmell said.
Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman, who was in the audience, articulated some of the councilmembers concerns about the ability to withdraw from such a relationship, even if it were under a three-year contract an idea under consideration. The likelihood of going back is really small, he said.
At the meeting, Emmert outlined what was currently being discussed: there would be three firefighters or paramedics at both the College Township and Monroe Township posts 24 hours a day, which would require retrofitting both posts.
I think its going to be hugely expensive, Solicitor Clinton Bailey said about the prospect of a merger.
While Emmert expects there would be no direct cost to the Village of Gambier, the changes would likely require a small increase in the fire millage, or property tax, in Gambier and College Township.
Kohlman said in an email that the College donates $80,000 annually to the College Township Fire Department and that it is committed to continuing its support of the fire department in the future. Emmert said the Mount Vernon Fire Department would bear the brunt of the expense, taking into account staff hiring and station renovations.
Emmert expects the Mount Vernon Fire Department to submit an official proposal for a merger to the committee this month. Once the committee devises its own proposal, which Emmert says may be by June or later, it must be approved by the trustees of both the College and Monroe Townships.