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Liberty fire chief seeking additional equipment

LIBERTY — Township trustees are reviewing a request by fire Chief Doug Theobald to use American Rescue Plan funds and other money for a new ladder truck or an ambulance with a mechanical lift.

At Monday’s trustee meeting, Theobald said Liberty is among the top fire departments in Trumbull County for call and run volume, second to Howland.

“In the past few years, we have seen a steady increase in our run volume,” Theobald said. “When you look at the data each year, it had gone up by 100 or more calls.

“It is a continued pattern that the fire department’s call volume is rising. We have seen an increase in requests for service, and it’s not all COVID related.”

Theobald said with the increase in calls comes a need for new vehicles such as an ambulance with a mechanical lift cot that will help fire crews get patients into the vehicle.

He said it can be challenging to lift some people onto a cot and into an ambulance; there’s one fire employee off work for a back injury.

“We do our best, but it is still a struggle to lift people on, cots especially in up-and-down situations. We are seeing what we can do to enhance the crew’s safety and capabilities and rescue equipment would help,” Theobald said.

He said a ladder truck is needed because some of the township’s commercial buildings are three or more stories tall, including medical facilities and hotels that are up to seven stories. Theobald said a new vehicle would cost $1.3 million to $1.4 million, but a used one would be less, with federal grants to help cover costs.

“We are currently dependent on mutual aid for a ladder truck. If another department is not available, there is a delay in the response time since we then have to ask another fire department with a ladder for mutual aid,” he said.

Theobald said a 2003 ladder truck costs $247,000 and meets the department’s needs.

Officials said if new vehicles are ordered in 2022, they will not arrive until 2023, taking 18 to 20 months for delivery.

Trustee Chairman Devon Stanley said trustees will review the chief’s request and available options for the ARP funds.

He said while the department does respond to COVID-19-related calls, usually those people are asked to contact their family doctor, but sometimes the family doctor recommend the person call 911.

Theobald said the fire department has worked with the state fire marshal’s office on checking that local motels and hotels are in compliance with fire codes. He said the two groups are cracking down on violators to get them shut down.

Theobald said in January the fire department responded to 348 fire and emergency medical calls and 56 fire protection service calls. He said last month the department made seven mutual aid calls and received six from other departments, mostly transports.

In other business, trustees:

• Heard from Zoning Inspector Jim Rodway that plans are being made for a $24 million senior citizen complex off Belmont Avenue near Naylor Lloyd Road. The zoning commission approved a zoning change from commercial to multifamily for the property for MVAH Group Partners for the project. Rodway said the business will learn by late May if it has received state funds for the first phase of the $12 million project;

• Approved amending the Juneteenth federal holiday on June 19 for employees. Stanley said when the date falls on a weekend, employees will mark the holiday on the following Monday. He said the five road department workers were compensated this year for an eight-hour 2021 holiday, because the holiday fell on a weekend when they were not working. Police and fire personnel already were working the weekend and received the holiday pay in 2021;

• Reported road department crews put in more than 35 straight hours clearing the roads during snowstorms in mid-January and early February;

• Accepted the resignation of Nick Heitzer as a part-time firefighter, effective Jan. 27;

• Announced National Earth Day events will be April 17-23.

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