Liberty Fire Department budget cuts create concern for response - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Liberty Fire Department budget cuts create concern for response times

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LIBERTY TWP, Ohio - Cuts to save money ahead of a projected tighter budget for the Liberty Township Fire Department isn't sitting well with the union.

With state funding cuts expected to take effect in 2015, Liberty's fire chief said the township is doing what it can to minimize the impact on personnel.

"We're trying to avoid laying off firefighters, is what it is," said Gus Birch, Liberty Township fire chief.

The department currently operates on a budget of $2.1 million. Birch said the department will likely see that amount shrink to about $1.9 million next year.

Being ready to respond to an emergency call comes down to not only time, but money management. Birch said he's trying to use part-time firefighters more often to avoid paying full-time firefighters overtime.

Sometimes the department will run one ambulance during a shift instead of two, and Station 34 on Belmont Avenue was closed to trim back on spending. 

The Logan Avenue station remains open, but its location is a concern for response times on the northern portion of the township.

"That side of town, where we're worried about our response times, we've had some calls over there and its taken us 10, 12 minutes to get there, and we're still in the nice months of the year," said Justin Graham, president of the Liberty Firefighters Union Local 2075.

While Birch knows the current situation is frustrating, he said his hands are tied. When only one ambulance is in operation, he said they still run a paramedic engine and also have the option to call for mutual aid from local departments, including Vienna or a private ambulance service.

"You have to live within your means, we do what we can with the money we have and we still try to provide the best service that we can," said Birch.

Birch said the goal is to eventually re-open the Belmont station. He plans to meet with township officials and the union later this month to review the current cost-cutting measures.
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