Friday, November 12, 1999

Wyoming life squad, fire services likely to fuse

Full-time safety director would lead department

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WYOMING — The city's life squad and fire department likely will merge soon under the direction of a new full-time safety director.

        City Council is expected to pass an ordinance Monday that would create an emergency services department. The new department would encompass both Wyoming's 31-member life squad and 29-member volunteer fire department.

        Meanwhile, City Manager Bob Harrison will begin the search for a person to oversee the life squad and handle administrative duties for both EMS and fire divisions. Fire Chief John Benken would retain leadership of the fire department until he retires, said Mayor David Savage.

        The move brings Wyoming into line with most other Hamilton County communities, whichalready have combined EMS and fire operations. The PAR Group, a consulting firm from Lake Bluff, Ill., recommended the merger in September.

Fire chief to stay
        Some firefighters have expressed concern that the new safety director would strip Chief Benken of his job.

        Not the case, said Mr. Savage.

        “We're very sensitive to the fact that our present fire chief is in place and has been doing a very credible job. We don't want to do anything at this point to undermine his authority,” he said.

        “At some point in time, our fire chief will retire, and at that point, we will consider very strongly the final part of the recommendation, which is to make the safety director have full leadership for both sections.”

EMS leadership
        More than anything, Mr. Savage said, the merger would held address leadership struggles within Wyoming's life squad.

        The squad, which serves 23,376 people in Wyoming, Woodlawn, Lincoln Heights, Lockland and Arlington Heights, has changed leadership several times in recent years. The captain was fired last year, and the mostly volunteer squad now is run by co-captains.

        To help pay for the new safety director's salary, which Mr. Harrison said is still being determined, the PAR Group recommended Wyoming's life squad get more aggressive about billing and charge for some services that now are provided free.

        Some additional fees may be charged, Mr. Savage said. But most of the funds will come from shifting monies that are already being spent elsewhere.


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- Wyoming life squad, fire services likely to fuse