By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
STEVENSVILLE — Lincoln Township trustees are in agreement for adding a full-time fire chief to its books for the upcoming fiscal year.
The salary of a full-time fire chief will be included in the township’s 2016-17 budget after trustees had a two-hour budget hearing Tuesday night.
In the initial budget hearing Feb. 9, trustees came to an impasse over the position and agreed to schedule another hearing. The position’s base salary with benefits was said to cost the township about $83,000.
Lincoln Township Fire Chief Ron Burkett said the effort to create the position is more than eight years in the making.
“It makes me feel good. Public safety is my primary concern,” Burkett said after the hearing. “I realize that after 27 years on the fire department – keep in mind I’m 54 years old – I have committed half of my life to public safety. I’ve been the chief for 12. This is a double-edge sword for me. I could be sitting in the cheap seats as a result of this, but I think that it is the right thing to do.”
While the position has been added to the budget, that does not mean Burkett will get the title outright.
Trustees and Fire Board members were adamant that it be opened up for interviews. Nearly a dozen firefighters were present for the hearing and told trustees, when broached, that they would support the trustees decision on who would be hired as fire chief.
In addition to the number of safety inspections required, Burkett told trustees the township has grown in size and requires a full-time fire chief.
Clerk Stacy Loar-Porter said she felt better moving forward with the position after a job description was provided.
“I feel comfortable leaving the full-time fire chief option in (the budget),” she said Tuesday night. “But I think there needs to be more included on how we are going to get to that point of paying for the salary.”
Trustee Marc Florian said there would be some revenue that would result from the hiring because inspections include a fee from businesses.
With the end of the township’s fiscal year approaching and the budget’s deadline for approval being March 31, the board will hold a March 15 public hearing for residents to discuss the proposed budget.
After the hearing, trustees can approve the budget during its regular meeting.
Been there before
The township has never had a full-time fire chief.
Supervisor Dick Stauffer said the full-time position has been in discussion among various boards and committees for more than a decade.
The most recent occasion came when the township put two millage requests for the fire department to a vote in 2013. The millage request to buy a fire truck passed, while the request to pay for operational expenses was narrowly shot down by voters.
Stauffer said the latter millage request in 2013 would have been used to pay for the full-time position and other operational expenses.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 2, 2016)