WEST MANCHESTER — According to West Manchester Fire Chief Dale Baker, after years of working on repairing their relationship, West Manchester Fire Department and Eldorado Fire Department work seamlessly together. This is one of the main reasons West Manchester officials championed a merger between the two fire departments.
The close bond wasn’t always the case.
Baker became aware of the merger as a possibility almost 30 years ago, but he began championing the efforts once he stepped into an officer’s position. He would speak to each of the departments about the merits of the merger and over the years his efforts “gained steam.”
When he was assistant chief, the township began to warm to the idea. Baker wanted the membership to organically support the idea, without forcing anyone’s support.
“Way back when, the two fire departments didn’t get along great. We didn’t train together. We didn’t fight on the scene or anything like that, but we didn’t interact much at all. Over the years, we grew together. The merger idea started gaining steam and we started training together as departments,” Baker said.
“We really kicked it up working with together and training with each other. The manpower situation has gotten worse in recent times. It is not going to get any better. We need both departments, manpower-wise, on almost every run. We came to that realization quite awhile ago — we have been dual-dispatched on everything for quite some time.
“We get along, we train together, our meetings are together. A lot of firefighters are becoming cross trained EMS, and vice versa. In the last 10 years, the trend has been to increase EMS response from the Fire Department. In the last five years, 60 to 65 percent of our calls are EMS related,” he continued.
“EMS is having a major shortfall in numbers, they’ve had that for quite some time. It became a realization to me, we need to bring the squad in too and pool everything together. We need to look at the whole emergency services for the whole of the township.”
For the Village of West Manchester, according to officials, it is time for the departments to merge together under their own governing body.
“It is just time. It makes a lot of sense. Both fire departments have been working extremely well together and we are fortunate. They had reduced equipment in one village or another village to help shortfalls and levy money. I tip my hat to them for doing that. Number one, it is pooling those volunteers together in one unit,” Mayor Tim Rodefer said.
“They truly need their own governing body at this point. There are a lot of things — I would say — maybe our council didn’t realize what their requirements are. It make a lot of sense for them to have their own governing body and to bring the departments together to pool volunteers. It just makes a lot of sense with these departments only being two miles apart. It is time to bring them together.”
In the past two years, the merger started to become a reality. Meetings were held more often between all parties involved. However, when presented a contract for the merger, Eldorado Village Council declined to sign.
Once receiving advice from its solicitor, Eldorado decided not to move further with the merger talks at this time.
“I am disappointed at the letter Eldorado Solicitor Richard Faber presented to their council. I don’t fault council for siding with their solicitor, my council would probably do the same. I thought there are a lot of things within that letter that are false or misleading information. Mr. Faber certainly did not contact our village to talk about our finances, which he decided to discuss in that letter,” Mayor Rodefer said.
“One thing in Mr. Faber’s letter was that the squad was going to be immediately affected and that is incorrect. The current contract that West Manchester and the township has already signed, nothing would happen to the existing squad district until a levy was passed. Actually, what it takes to dissolve that current ambulance district is a resolution from both villages and the township to dissolve it,” Baker said.
“He touched on doing the fire departments first and then bringing in EMS, which in theory we wouldn’t be against, but there is something in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) that covers Fire and EMS district creation, that handles joining two districts difference than combining a district and two villages. If you did it that way, immediately when you formed the district, it would kill the existing levies. So you wouldn’t have time to pass a levy and get funding established, like we do with the way the current contract is written.”
West Manchester does hope to continue the merger talks in the future.
“I certainly hope we can sit back down at the table in a month or two and talk about what they want to go for. I think it is still a need for the taxpayers of the township. What the future looks like, I know the township wants to see it happen. I’ve spoken with them, they want us to sit back down with Eldorado. The Squad Board still sees a need for it. I hope we can get back together,” Rodefer said.
“I think there are ways to get around some of their road blocks and we are very interested in doing so.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH