Council merges EMS, fire departments

Posted March 10, 2018 at 8:17 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

Akron councilors unanimously approved merging the city’s Akron Fire & Rescue Department with the Akron EMS and hiring an assistant rescue chief.

The new department is called Akron Fire-Rescue Department and their purposes are:

• To prevent and extinguish fires;

• To protect lives and property against fires and assist in rescue of persons involved in accidents or fires;

• To provide emergency ambulance and medical services within the scope of their authorization by the Iowa Department of Public Health;

• To provide other assistance in time of fire, disaster or accidents requiring rescue or ambulance services and answer all emergency calls for which there is no other established agency; and

• To promote fire prevention, fire safety and training in the area of emergency medical care.

Fire-Rescue Chief

The fire-rescue chief, which is currently Shane Coyle, is appointed by the Akron Fire-Rescue Department’s membership. His appointment is approved by a majority of the Akron councilors at a December meeting and the chief takes the position Jan. 1 to serve a two-year term.

The fire-rescue chief determines the number of officer positions needed, number of each officer rank and may add or eliminate any position, at any time, at his or her discretion. The chief may veto any election of officers he or she deems detrimental to the efficient operation of the department and call for another election.

When fire-rescue chief resigns or dies, the assistant fire-rescue chief will notify city officials and serve as acting fire-rescue chief until an appointment is made and confirmed by council. The appointment is only to fulfill the duration of the fire-rescue chief’s term.

In the absence of the fire-rescue chief, the highest ranking officer assumes control of the department and acts as fire-rescue chief with all the powers and authority delegated by state law or ordinance.

No person shall willfully fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of the fire-rescue chief.

Assistant Rescue Chief

Fire-Rescue Chief Shane Coyle plans to add an officer’s position, Assistant Rescue Chief, to supervise the operations of the (ambulance rescue portion of the merged department.

This person will be responsible for the Rescue inventory and state audit compliance.

No salary was set for this part-time position, and it wasn’t determined if this position would be equal in salary to the assistant fire-rescue chief position.

“That’s yet to be determined, depends on duties,” said Akron City Administrator Dan Rolfes.

“We have some things to finalize,” said Coyle, adding he planned to fill this position with an Akron EMS volunteer, not a firefighter.

Membership Voting

All prospective fire-rescue members will need to be “membership voter-approved” to serve on the new department. Currently, there are 30 firefighting members and 12 rescue members.

Departments’ Bylaws

The current fire department by-laws will be updated to include EMS language as the city’s ordinance is not the department’s bylaws. The two departments have had their own bylaws.

The bylaws must be approved by the council.

Annual Reports

Both salary compensations and annual reports will be reviewed by the council. When asked if an annual report to the council was enough, Rolfes responded the annual report shows the number of fires, their location, the personnel who responded to each and members’ training. Payroll is every two weeks.

Departments’ Budgets

“The two (groups’) budgets will be merged,” said Rolfes, noting some of that budget still needs worked out. “When we do our budgeting stuff, they have separate line items that they want (kept) — that’s on the state reporting part. When we do ours, it’s inhouse and they’ll be merged.”

The vehicle set-aside accounts will remain separate though, he added.

Firefighters’ Opinion

When asked what the consensus of the firefighters was in merging the departments, Rolfes answered, “No one voiced objections at the (firefighters’) meeting that night.”

“Pretty much all really positive about it,” said Councilor Joseph Small, who is the liaison for the two departments.

It was noted that until Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training is completed and firefighting (bunker gear) equipment is purchased, the firefighters will remain firefighters and EMS volunteers will remain on the ambulance.

Eight firefighters have already volunteered to take EMT training, which will increase the rescue staff portion, said Small.

“That’s the goal — to have more qualified (in Rescue),” said Coyle. However, this merger should solve the lack of ambulance drivers since firefighters are trained in driving EMS vehicles.

An EMT will still be assigned to be on-call 24 hours a day, which is an Iowa Department of Public Health requirement for ambulance services, said Rolfes.

The merger doesn’t fix lack of rescue volunteers immediately, said Coyle. “That challenge still exists. In time we’re hoping it does — once people complete EMT training.”

The Fire-Rescue Department members will now receive all fire and rescue pages through a single tone.

Other Council Business

In other business, the Council:

• Awarded the Electric Substation Construction Contract to low bidder Harold K. Scholz Co. of Ralston, Neb., who gave a bid of $616,400. He had earlier had the winning bid for the Substation’s Switchgear part of this project.

Construction bids ranged from $616,400 to $979,163.40, said Rolfes, and the engineer’s estimate was $700,000. The whole project cost is just short of $2.3 million.

Councilor Joseph Small made the motion to accept the low bid and Councilor Alex Pick seconded it. The vote was unanimous, 4-0 with Councilor Kasey Mitchell absent.

The council also unanimously approved entering into an Electric Revenue Loan Agreement with Dorsey & Whitney law firm to move forward with the sale of bonds not to exceed $2.3 million for this project.

These are Revenue Bonds, explained Rolfes, not General Obligation Bonds. Therefore, the repayment is from the city’s Electric Fund revenues, not property taxes.

Councilor Denise Loutsch-Beitelspacher made the motion and Pick seconded it. The vote was 4-0.

• Tabled going into a closed session to discuss the employees’ union contract.

• Was informed the mayor will be hosting another Plant Your Flag meeting in April.

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