Saline Fire Board Rejects Fire Marshall Position
The Saline Fire Board met on Wednesday evening at the Saline Fire Station to review and approve next year's budget. After several minutes of discussion, Board Member Janet Dillon, council person in the City of Saline, made a motion asking that representatives of the budget subcommittee from the four jurisdictions, with appropriate financial staff, reconvene to review and bring forward a revised budget for the board to review at a special meeting called for on Wednesday, 02-28-24, 6 p.m. at the Saline Fire Station.
The service area for the Saline Fire Department includes the City of Saline, Lodi Township, Saline Township and a part of York Township. Each jurisdiction shares in the costs for fire protection services. The FY24-25 percentages for each jurisdiction were set at:
- 30.6% Lodi Township
- 11.5% Saline Township
- 23.9% York Township
- 33.3% City of Saline
In a vote of 6-2, the board voted down a request from Saline Fire Chief Jason Sperle for a Fire Marshall, a new position whose main responsibility would be code enforcement on new and existing structures throughout the service area.
“The role of the Fire Marshall would be to conduct inspections of new construction, as well as improvements to existing structures, to ensure that all fire and safety codes are observed," Sperle said. "It is a matter of public safety. We need to ensure that all citizens and that all of my staff are safe.”
Despite data that demonstrated the growth in the service area, many of the board members did not think the fire marshall position was justified at this time. Only York Township voted to support the new position.
York Township Supervisor Chuck Tellas said in support of the position, “in York Township, public safety is a high priority. Maybe the highest. With new construction of a battery storage facility in our township, we believe it is especially important that the fire rarshall be present to oversee the enforcement of all fire and safety regulations.”
The budget subcommittee will revise the department’s FY24-25 budget without the fire marshall position included.
As Chief Sperle reported on the activities in the last fiscal year, he said that the department had made 2,228 runs. A sizable portion of those runs were to homes for “falls.”
“Our population is aging, and more and more people are aging in place in their homes, so consequently, we are receiving more calls for falls," Sperle said. "Many of the calls are not really calls a fire department should have to respond to.”
Board member Janet Dillon questioned the chief about alternatives that could be considered to reduce the number of inappropriate runs the department makes and whether another community resource could be used.
In one sentence, Sperle captured the growing tension that exists between the money needed to support services citizens require and the day-to-day life of first responders.
“I will not leave a resident on the floor. We will always respond,” Sperle said.
And that statement captured the tension that communities everywhere struggle with when trying to balance their budgets while providing citizens with expected services.
The Fire Board’s budget subcommittee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m., Feb. 14.
The special meeting of the Fire Board to approve the revised FY 24-25 budget is scheduled for 6 p.m., Feb. 28.
Both meetings will be held at the Saline Fire Station.
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