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Q & A: Chairman gives update on EWFD staffing

DGKN staff report

Responses to six questions posed by The Dalton Gazette & Kidron News were provided via email by East Wayne Fire District Chairman Blake Nussbaum II.

DGKN: Since voters passed two-year levies in November to support East Wayne Fire District and it’s now late spring, can you please update the community on what changes have occurred at each of the Dalton and Marshallville stations so far this year as a result of the levies passing?

BN: The support of the community has been great as we moved into and through 2021. Many elements from staffing, scheduling, and day-to-day operations have been improved. Currently EWFD is staffing a 2-person duty crew for 8 hours per day over school hours. The levy has allowed for the crew to begin a routine as operational cost and staffing are being covered with the levy funds. The district is expanding the crew roster as the levy is generating more interest for more crew to join. One of the larger changes is moving to a pay by the call/hour with no stipends for officers.
This has created a stable and positive working environment.

DGKN: Were you able to provide staffing at each of the stations, or at one of the stations, sooner than you expected? How did you do that?

BN: Collections of the levy passed were received by EWFD in April 2021. By being fiscally responsible, EWFD saved up a small amount of money that enabled us to start staffing in February – two months early – before the levy money was received.
The goal was to “practice” and get the scheduling down. The entire EWFD staff embraced that challenge. To be completely honest it has been way more successful than I anticipated.
Staffing has been a two-person duty crew from around 7 a.m. to around 4 p.m. seven days a week. The duty crew starts the day at Station 1 then rotates up to Station 2 for required truck checks.
The crew may spend multiple hours in Station 2 depending upon the to-do list for the day and ends the day at Station 1.
In summary, the staffed hours are for the District as a whole as both stations are one group, so there is not a set number of hours allocated to a “station,” the staffed hours are for East Wayne Fire District as a team.

DGKN: What are the hours and days that people can count on a staff member to be stationed at the Dalton and Marshallville stations?

BN: Duty crew is staffed between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. seven days a week, responsibilities of the crew on shift are for the entire district and not specific to a station.

DGKN: Can you highlight a few of the major improvements and changes at the stations thanks to COVID-19 funds?

BN: a.) Sugar Creek Township allocated (rounded) $96,000 to EWFD. The money was used to purchase:
i. Stryker Medical Load system for Squad 1- (rounded) $53,000;
ii. Lifepac 15 Monitor- (rounded) $36,000;
iii. Station 1 modification to allow public access to office without physical entry to the station – $3,500
iv. COVID cleaning supplies – $4,000
b.) Village of Marshallville allocated $14,000 to EWFD. The money was used to purchase: i. 2 Small UV disinfectant lights for Squad 2 and Squad 3;
ii. 2 Medium UV disinfectant lights for Station 1 and 2;
c.) Village of Dalton allocated – (rounded) $4,000 to EWFD. The money was used to purchase: Small UV disinfectant light for Squad 1
d.) The COVID funds helped purchase items for disinfecting the squads and stations from viruses and diseases keeping our crews healthy and ready to respond. EWFD purchased much needed PPE jumpsuits for all members and load system for our ambulance. The load system reduces the number of people needed to load a patient. The COVID CARE funds were used in accordance with the county prosecutor to ensure only approved items where purchased.

DGKN: Have there been any surprises along the way or any results that you weren’t anticipating that have resulted in improvements at the stations thanks to either the additional tax funds or COVID-19-related funds.

BN: a.) One benefit of having a duty crew during the hours of 7 a.m.-4 p.m., that was not anticipated, is the improvement in non-staffed hours volunteer response. EWFD is using a scheduling software that monitors all 24 hours of the day. This scheduling system has increased the number of people during the volunteer hours that respond. In short, the staffed hours are improving the volunteer non-staffed hours which was unexpected. With the day hours covered, it lessens the pressure on the First responders as they know the day time calls are covered. We have been using that same software to have different teams alternating on call for night hours. Meaning with the daytime hours staffed, the non-staffed hours now have a set on call crew. This allows the other members to mentally relax or not be on edge that a call may go uncovered. The other positive is the overall morale boost! This is a direct reflection of the community support of which all EWFD members are extremely thankful.
b.) One other positive is we are currently running under the estimated amount budgeted for staffing based on two months’ data. If this trend continues, it will provide an opportunity to bank a few staffing dollars in the contingency fund for large unexpected calls, and/or provide the possibility to increase duty crew staffing hours. Ultimate goal is to provide as many staffed hours as possible with the funds collected.
c.) Overall, 2021 has been incredibly positive.

DGKN: Is there anything you would like the community to know moving forward? Are there plans to put another levy on the ballot in 2022?

BN: a.) With only a few months under our belts the current structure and levy amount is showing great promise. Having community supported staffing (levy) will allow EWFD to continue to be good stewards of that money and be eligible for future federal grants. We are currently in the process of researching and applying for grants.
As we continue through that process the next update will include more of that information.
b.) As for future levies, the EWFD board is in discussion of the next steps. Currently, the 2.9-mill levy is achieving the goals it was set out for, which is base operational cost and a two-man day time duty crew. Options being discussed are:
1. Renew existing levy (2.9 mill) for another two years;
2. New 2.9 mill levy for longer time period, 3-10 year;
3. New 2.9-mill levy continuing.
EWFD’s goal with any future levy is to find the balance of base operation expense and base staffing to provide the most value for the community. The EWFD board understands that the community can’t afford the Cadillac plan with 24-hour staffing at both EWFD stations.
EWFD will continue working towards that goal, spending our money as we would within our own family budget, separating the needs from the wants.
Future capital improvements that top the list are ensuring the ambulances are up to date as they get the most use and are the oldest in the fleet. The long term capital plan is to save within our 2.9 mill levy and fundraise to methodically replace our oldest pieces of equipment.
c.) The 2.9 mill is providing staffing and base operational cost within a positive working environment for the district. We will continue to improve and we can’t thank the community enough for the support now and in the future.

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