Boston Heights Overlook
This is a publication of
Boston Heights Overlook.
Not an official public document by, of or for
the Village of Boston Heights OH.
VILLAGE OF BOSTON HEIGHTS
45 E. Boston Mills Road
Hudson, OH 44236
SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING - January 18, 2006 - 8:00 P.M.
[and Editor's Notes on Council Meeting.
Please note that these are not official minutes of the Council meeting.
Please contact the Village Hall to obtain a copy of the official minutes.]
[Note: This special meeting was reportedly called by Mayor Ray McFall.]
Council members present: Bill Goncy (President Pro Tempore), Mike Cheung,
Jim Hudson, Janet Miller, Paul Palumbo, and Teri Slane; absent.
Also present: Mayor Ray McFall, Clerk-Treasurer Carol Zeman, and Solicitor Russ Pry.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
[Adopted as Ord. 3-2006, as amended]
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 139.03(a)(2) OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES OF THE VILLAGE OF BOSTON HEIGHTS REGARDING THE ELIGIBILITY QUALIFICATIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS TO SERVE ON THE VILLAGE FIRE DEPARTMENT AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY.
This ordinance had its first reading at the regular January 2006 Council meeting; it apparently had been headed back to committee for further consideration, but Mayor Ray McFall called this special meeting to try to settle the matter before next month's meeting.
This ordinance removes the previous requirements that a firefighter live in, and be an "elector of", the Village. (That is, be a registered voter). Essentially it repeals the residency requirement for Village firefighters. As originally written, the ordinance would have required that firefighters live within "a 7 mile radius of the corporate limits" and be "readily accessible".
Mayor McFall explained that this meeting was called because as many as three of the Village's volunteer "daytime" firefighters would be sidelined because they had, or were planning to, move out of the Village. (Note: At the recent Finance Committee meeting, it was suggested that the residency rule had been overlooked in the past when firefighters moved out of the Village.) The Mayor went on to quote Fire Chief Black of Macedonia as saying that even a 7 mile radius would be too restrictive for him to run his department. From the audience, Village Fire Chief Jim Robinson made some remarks about the response time of Macedonia EMS to various locations in Boston Heights; he went on to decry what he saw as Council's focus on firefighter response time. He stated that in the case of a call for firefighters, even the late arrivals are useful for manning later truck rolls (later adding that they are also then positioned to respond to additional calls while the early responders are dealing with the original call).
Councilor Mike Cheung asked the Mayor to clarify whether he was arguing for or against the 7-mile residency limit, as would be established by the proposed ordinance. The Mayor replied that Chief Black of Macedonia would advocate a larger distance limit. He added that at least one Macedonia EMS staffer lived 45 minutes away -- but is scheduled, not necessarily on call at all times. The Mayor clarified his view that the question of accessibility could be left entirely to the discretion of the Fire Chief. Dr. Cheung went on to ask about making an allowance for firefighters that work in the Village, even if they live nowhere nearby. Chief Robinson seemed to think this was sensible, but pointed out that it was not permitted under the current law. He added that Ohio law protected a firefighter from losing his/her job due to responding to an emergency call.
Village Solicitor Russ Pry suggested that Council remove the residency distance limit entirely, and rely on the requirement that a firefighter be "readily accessible". Councilor Bill Goncy explained that his original request to return this ordinance to committee was based on a desire to establish a policy that defined "readily accessible" -- in writing. He mentioned that the Police Department had a very complete written policy handbook.
Mayor McFall complained that he had understood this matter to be all settled at the previous Finance Committee meeting. Councilor Janet Miller countered with her understanding that the 7-mile limit discussed there was just a starting point for further discussion and refinement of this policy. Solicitor Pry noted that this ordinance did not address Fire Department policy, and that matter could still be pursued without prejudice to the present question of department membership. Chief Robinson objected that the Fire Department does have a policy statement. Council Goncy asked whether this was in writing; Chief Robinson replied that it was in writing, and that he could provide it upon request.
Solicitor Pry expressed his understanding that the real question was as to the membership of the First Responder squad (as opposed, it seems, to the Fire Department in general). He reiterated his earlier suggestion that Council just remove any fixed residency distance requirement.
Councilor Palumbo asked what the First Responder response time is, currently; Chief Robinson stated that it was around 2 minutes. He stated that later arrivals were still useful (as noted above), and were paid for their response -- unless they arrived after the call was entirely completed and the squad had already returned to the Fire Station. Councilor Goncy countered with his own observation of First Responders showing up after the Macedonia EMS squad itself was on the scene. Councilor Teri Slane stated that, while she thought these issues ought to be reviewed by the (Safety 2) committee, the Village also needed to stop the incipient job losses. Councilor Jim Hudson echoed that view.
Mayor McFall noted that Ohio Senate Bill SB82, which would outlaw all municipal residency requirements, had just passed the Ohio House and might render this question moot. (SB82 was being returned to the Ohio Senate for further consideration). Solicitor Pry once again noted that removing the residency requirement, and distance limit, made this problem go away. Councilor Hudson agreed that the Fire Department's First Responder policies could be reviewed, but repeated his assertion that the membership question needed to be resolved immediately. He then moved to "suspend the rules", to forgo further readings of this ordinance; Councilor Palumbo seconded.
Councilor Palumbo then moved to adopt the ordinance (as introduced). Councilor Miller seconded.
At this point, Councilor Cheung moved to amend the ordinance so as to remove the language that required a firefighter's residency within 7 miles of the Village borders; Councilor Hudson seconded this motion to amend. Dr. Cheung explained the basis for his amendment as follows: that Council should evaluate the Fire Chief's assessment of each member's "accessibility" when determining whether to approve that person's appointment to the Fire Department. But he also felt that the Safety 2 Committee should evaluate the Fire Department policies, as a separate matter. (It was not entirely clear whether one of these policies covered how to handle a current member who was becoming less accessible, as in the current cases.) Chief Robinson felt he would have no problem making a case for the accessibility of anyone he proposed as a member of the Fire Department. Councilors Slane and Hudson endorsed this assessment.
An audience member asked whether Council might want to also amend the requirement that a Fire Department member be a "citizen" -- so as to allow, say, legal residents and immigrants to serve too. While there was a certain amount of councilor eye-rolling in response to this question, Solicitor Pry noted that he would have examine whether this was allowed by Ohio state law. Councilor Cheung asked him to do so, adding that this could be dealt with later, if desired.
At this point, a roll-call vote was taken on Dr. Cheung's amendment -- which passed unanimously. The main question was then called, and the amended ordinance was approved unanimously. As this is an "emergency" measure, the new requirements for fire department membership take effect immediately; specifically, all residency requirements have been removed and no new residency distance requirement has been implemented.
Boston Heights firefighters no longer need be residents of Boston Heights.
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