Mickie Foltz knows she’s probably asking for more than she can get, but she’s asking anyway.
If Brookfield Fire Station 51 is frequently closed, why aren’t taxpayers getting a rebate on the property taxes they are paying for fire service, the Masury woman asked at the March 4 trustees meeting.
The Addison Road station was closed for 30, 12-hour shifts in March, 29 in February, 12 in December and 15 in November because of a lack of part-time firefighters to supplement the full-time staff of seven, said Fire Chief David Masirovits.
The township struggles with attracting enough part-timers, who frequently call off because they can get a better-paying job that day elsewhere, and keeping the hours of those who work below the threshold where they have to be offered benefits, officials have said.
“Our levy was passed for that,” Foltz said of building and staffing Station 51. “Where is the money going, the levy money?”
Foltz said she has been told repeatedly that the money not spent goes into the general fund, but officials said March 4 it stays within the fire budget.
Officials said the township is still providing fire protection, but Foltz said it’s not the service that the voters approved. With Masirovits moving personnel to the main Station 18 on Route 7 when he doesn’t have enough to staff Station 51, response times are slower to Masury, she said.
“We are not thinking it’s an also ran,” said Trustee Dan Suttles. “That’s very important. A huge part of our population — not only down on First, Second and Third street and that area, but the lower part of the West Hill, the Syme Street area, Stevenson Heights — is accessible from that station. The large part of our population, we can get to from that station. It’s critical to us. The chief’s working on it, and we told him it’s a priority.”
The township pays $9.15 an hour for firefighter/emergency medical technicians, $10.05 an hour for firefighter/advanced EMTs and $11 an hour for firefighter/paramedics.
“It’s very low,” Suttles said of the part-time pay. “I think in the county it might be, there’s three departments that are lower than us. But, as the chief said, most of those departments, Vienna, Bristol, they have just a part-time staff, and a part-time staff comes with no benefits at all. They don’t have to absorb the costs that we do.”
Masirovits told the trustees March 25 that he has come up with some options for part-time pay and planned to talk about them with Fiscal Officer Dena McMullin and Police Chief Dan Faustino, who said he also has had difficulty attracting part-timers.
Trustee Ron Haun asked residents to remember that a fire department has equipment and repair costs that can eat up money in a hurry. He said Masirovits is babying a pumper truck that he would rather retire, because the cost of a new truck is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I think the fire department’s doing a pretty damn good job for what they’ve got to work with and what we’re trying to provide as far as a service is concerned, a full-time service,” Haun said.