On May 2, Student Council Safety and Wellness Committee Chairperson Ryan Nader ’21 sent an email to students and staff, announcing that the College Township Trustees will allow the Mount Vernon City Council to vote on absorbing the College Township Fire Department (CTFD) into the Mount Vernon Fire Department (MVFD). The vote will take place on May 10.
The merger has been a significant issue for the Village Council since the summer. In November, Gambier voted for a $6 million tax levy to support the CTFD due to financial issues. At the time, CTFD staff had expressed concerns about the lack of assistance from the College.
In his email about the vote, Nader argued that the decision to let the CTFD merge with the MVFD should be reconsidered due to the potential negative impacts it could have on the Gambier community. He noted the change would hinder the historic mutual relationship between the two departments, take away accessible and affordable emergency services from Gambier residents and strip jobs from community members and student volunteers at the CTFD. He called upon the community to sign a petition requesting a town hall meeting before the voting process begins.
However, some community members contested these concerns. Most notably, former Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs Susan Delozier replied to the email claiming that the objections to the merger contained some factual inaccuracies.
These inaccuracies, outlined in a memo by Mount Vernon Safety Service Director Rick Dzik ’04, responded to the concerns that Nader laid out in a message to the Kenyon community. He explained how he expected the merger to address Nader’s concerns, arguing that it would not leave the College Township unstaffed, would address issues about billing and would open opportunities for CTFD members to obtain part-time employment. In addition, the MVFD intends to work on opening positions for Kenyon volunteers.
Dzik stressed that these discussions are not new, and have been the products of a lengthy period of discussion between the College Township Trustees and the Mount Vernon City Council. Melissa Nixon ’23, a student volunteer with the CTFD, expressed how these issues have been discussed throughout her time with the Department.
“When I first got on as a freshman about a year and a half ago, the Department was in pretty deep financial trouble,” Nixon said. “So it wasn’t terribly surprising; it was more disappointing.”
Nixon detailed that, this spring, the Department had begun discussing the possibility of a merger with other departments in Knox County.
Nixon, like others, believes a town hall would be beneficial. If the town hall occurs, it would likely serve the purpose of clarification rather than change, as the City Council and the departments have generally finalized their decisions regarding the merger.
“It’s important to emphasize that the goal of the town hall was just to educate people about what’s going on so they do know what’s happening. It’s not necessarily to recall the votes from the Trustees,” Nixon said.
In addition, Nixon stressed that there were members of the Department who wished to hold the Trustees accountable and encourage them to provide a larger degree of clarity regarding the decision and its implications for the Gambier community.