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Buena Vista holds town hall meeting over proposed merger of fire and police departments

(WJRT)
Published: Jan. 3, 2020 at 11:19 PM EST
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(1/3/2020) - Should police and fire in Buena Vista Township become one?

That's the question on the table tonight - as the Township looks to cut costs.

The proposed plan to merge the two departments into a Public Safety Department would go into effect next year - with officers being trained to fight fires as well.

Township officials don't want to cut jobs - but said they need to make a move in order to save money.

"No one wants to, but what people need to realize is the cost the township takes to be able to operate,” said Tori McAfee, Buena Vista Twp. Superintendent. “It continuously goes up, everything goes up."

If the proposal by Buena Vista to merge its police and Fire departments get the okay... there would be 7 full-time fire staff, 6 public safety officers, 3 full-time police officers, and 20 on-call firefighters.

However - the idea was met with heavy criticism and backlash from the community at Friday's town hall meeting - including from members of the fire department.

"It would mean an increase in response time for fire service for residents of Buena Vista and the community," said Buena Vista Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Hoeppner

His concern with the plan is the cuts to his full-time staff, and increase in his on-call firefighter's numbers.

Hoeppner says not only is he already struggling to find employees but if he has to hire staff outside of the Township - it would mean residents would have to wait longer for firefighters to arrive at the station, get suited up and head out in the event of a fire.

"I just don't think it's a good fit for this community, I don't see it working well and if we can come up with some other ideas to change...I'm all for that," said Hoeppner.

Buena Visita Police Chief Reggie Williams says it's still early to know how this could affect the police and fire departments - but knows it could results in cuts either way.

"I'm not certain exactly on how it would affect us right now because we're still in the preliminary stages,” said Williams. “There is a lot more research that has to be done but it would have an effect on either one or the both sides."

There will be a decision on the proposal at a meeting on Monday, January 6th and it's open to the public. It will begin at 6 p.m. inside the township hall.

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