Contact Information

Village Budget Explained: Regionalized Fire Department, Part II

firedepartmentFrom the Mayor’s Office:

Last week I started my informational posts about the village’s operations and the services offered by discussing the Fire Department and how the Hazardous Material protection and response has been regionalized. Before I go any further I need to explain how for the last 100 years the Fire Department was and is organized as a regional fire protection service. Judging from the questions I have been asked over the years, this might be the most misunderstood aspect of the village’s operations. Hopefully this post will provided you with a clearer understanding of the fire departments regional operation and cost sharing achieved by this arrangement.

The Village has benefited from regionalized fire protection since 1897 when the Fire Department was formed. Prior to 1934 the village provided fire protection to a wide area outside the municipal boundaries. In 1934 the Village decided not to provide these services outside of the Village. The Fire Department members at the time, led by Brick Harris, decided to form a non-profit corporation to provide fire services via contract to the communities in the area that wanted it. The Chagrin Falls Suburban Volunteers Fireman’s Association Incorporated (Suburban Department) was formed and started providing Fire Protection to area communities in the Valley. Today the Suburban Department provides fire protection services to: the Villages of Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Bentleyville, South Russell and Chagrin Falls Township. It is important to point out that your tax dollars do not directly support the Suburban Fire Department, fire protection agreements with these other communities do. So when you pass by the fire station you are really seeing two fire departments that are closely related but independent.

This shared facility arrangement has provided many cost savings to both departments. They currently cost share on: fire protective gear, insurance, radios and pagers, firefighting equipment, hose, fire training, and breathing apparatus among others. One large example is the Suburban Fire Department has paid for the station house you see today. This has saved the Village over $800,000.00 dollars. As a part of the shared facility agreement the Village has agreed to maintain the buildings along with providing a long term lease to allow the Suburban Fire Department to locate in the Village.

So what do your tax dollars provide? The only pieces of equipment that has been purchased solely with Chagrin Falls tax dollars is the Fire Prevention Car and the Ladder truck which is required for fighting fires in multiple story commercial structures. The reason for this is Chagrin Falls is the only community within the Suburban Fire department’s service area with extensive multi story commercial structures. All other apparatus and equipment costs are shared with the communities under contract with the Suburban Department. The Village currently employs a part time Fire Chief (split with the Suburban department), a full time Fire Marshal and 48 part time firefighters. These part time firefighters are only paid per call when they respond to a fire related incident in the Village. They receive $28.19 for their services whether the call lasts 15 min or 8 hours. I think that is a pretty good deal. It should be noted that the village receives a significant benefit from having a joint fire station located within the Village, reduced response times and seconds count.

The full time Fire Marshal inspects all commercial property within the Village. Three years ago regional agreements were put in place to share the costs of these services with the Villages of Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Chagrin Falls Township and Bentleyville. I think you will agree prevention is the best approach to firefighting. These efforts in the areas of fire prevention and fighting along with improved training and water main upgrades helped to improve our Fire insurance rating from a class 5 to a class 3. This saves you money every year on your home owners and commercial insurance policies.

Besides Firefighting and Fire Prevention, the Fire Department provides extensive services from the hazardous materials response discussed last week to: motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide in homes, natural gas leaks to residential smoke alarm assistance, blood pressure checks, residential home fire safety surveys, and the famous Haunted Fire house provided to our children at Halloween.

What is the cost of these services to the village? The budget for “Fire Protection” and other related services in 2015 was $300,000 dollars or an annual cost per resident $73.00; a little over $1.30 per week, less than the price of a single cup of coffee. Regionalization can save significant amounts of money; that is why we have been doing it for over 100 years.

My next installment will explain how the village residents receive and pay for our Emergency Medical Services.

Mayor Bill Tomko