By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON — At the end of council's legislative session on Monday, Councilwoman Janis Seavolt questioned why the three additional firefighters promised to Liberty Township have not been hired.
Noting that it was her understanding that the money coming in from the township would be “a wash” in relation to the cost of hiring the additional personnel, Seavolt said, “I don't understand what's holding us up getting our firefighters.”
“It was my decision,” Mayor Richard Mavis told Seavolt. “I did talk to Terry [Scott, city auditor], I did talk to Joel [Daniels, safety-service director] about it, that because of this financial situation...the note I sent to the trustees said at this time we were not going to fill the positions. We think and feel we can do the job [with current personnel] until the budget situation clears. It's our intention to hire one crew member per shift.”
On questioning from Seavolt about the revenue from EMS billing and the Liberty Township levy, Scott said that money goes into the general fund, not directly to the fire department.
Seavolt also questioned whether the city had any liability for not adding the three firefighters as promised. “The [fire] chief stated he would put three firefighters on the truck when we did the resolution, and the township trustees were listening to him,” she said.
“The contract does not infer or imply that we're going to hire additional personnel,” said Mavis. “It simply says we will provide fire and EMS services to Liberty Township for the extent of the contract.” Mavis said that when needed, the department will either call in emergency overtime personnel or rely on mutual aid, just as the department does now.
“Emergency overtime starts adding up, too,” said Seavolt.
Liberty Township Trustee Ed Moreland said he received a call from Fire Chief Chad Christopher telling him the city was not going to hire the additional manpower.
“It's disappointing. You tell us one thing and that's kind of what we used...you have to make sure you have enough manpower,” said Moreland. “We are disappointed, Chad was disappointed as well, but Chad assured us that [Mount Vernon] won't let the township down.”
Moreland said Christopher told him January was the busiest month the department has had and that everything went well on the 13 runs into Liberty Township. “He assured me they will still do the best they can and that he would like to still get the additional three firefighters,” said Moreland.