Parkman Fire Department Needs Your Support
Thursday, November 29, 2012
By Jon Ferguson
I've lived in Parkman for 28 years and, like many of you, I always took the fire department and the emergency services for granted. I always assumed they'd be there if I ever needed them.
A few years back, my perspective changed. I began to attend the Parkman Township trustees meetings. It was there that I met Fire Chief Wayne Komandt.
As I attended more meetings, I got to know Wayne even better. I found him to be a man who is deeply and personally concerned about the health and safety of the people in our community. In fact, Wayne has been a Parkman volunteer fireman for 40 years and for 26 of those years he's been our fire chief. I also found him to be a person of strong personal integrity – someone you're proud to know and even more comfortable knowing he's got your back.
So, a couple years ago, when Chief Komandt started presenting his concerns regarding the lack of availability of daytime responders, I listened closely.
Chief Komandt explained that times have changed and most businesses will no longer let responders leave their workplace to answer a call. He also went on to explain that many of the responders are working further from home which makes it impossible for them to answer an emergency call.
This is not a problem unique to Parkman. It is a problem common to most volunteer fire departments in Geauga and Ohio, especially in rural areas like ours.
It was about this time that Troy Township Trustees approached the Parkman Township Trustees and asked Parkman to join them in solving this problem. They were not talking about a fire district; they were talking about building on the already existing mutual working relationship that existed within the two fire departments.
To make a very long story short, Troy got tired of waiting on the Parkman trustees and went ahead and addressed the problem on their own. Troy implemented what is called part-time, daytime staffing. Under this plan, two properly trained fire/EMS people are paid to be available at the fire station during the core daytime hours.
In the last 18 months or so, our need has become critical. Parkman is down to two core responders on day turn. Many of the other volunteers try to help, but most are just not available during the daytime.
These two day-turn core responders have decades of volunteer experience, so their commitment is beyond question. However, they are both over 70 years old. It is unconscionable to expect these two individuals to answer most of the daytime calls most of the time.
Finally, in the Sept. 4, 2012, trustees meeting, the Parkman trustees agreed to support staffing, but they had just a couple more questions: How would it be administered and how would it be paid for? Chief Komandt agreed to provide this information at the next meeting.
Chief Komandt provided the administrative information the trustees requested. A resident generated the cash flow analysis using the budget information from the township fiscal officer and the cost information provided by the fire chief.
The cash flow analysis showed that the daytime staffing could be paid for out of the existing fire department budget and still provide for the planned replacement of old equipment. No new taxes would be required.
For the meeting on Oct. 2, the subject of daytime staffing was removed and an executive session scheduled. Any decision reached in the executive session must be announced and voted on at the public meeting. When the trustees adjourned the executive meeting, they announced that no action was taken in the executive meeting.
The next evening at the regularly scheduled fire department staff meeting, Chief Komandt announced the trustees did not plan to reappoint him in 2013 and, instead, would seek a replacement.
The Maple Leaf on Oct. 11 had a column heading that stated "Parkman Trustees Table Fire Department Staffing for Six Months." In the article, the reporter stated the trustee chairman said, "The trustees have decided to table the subject of staffing of the fire department for six months."
Another trustee was unaware of this decision, so she called the reporter to see if this was a misprint or error. It was not.
The Oct. 16 trustees meeting was standing room only. Many concerned residents and Parkman fireman as well as firemen and fire chiefs from other areas were present.
The discussion of fire department staffing was started by a trustee making a motion to support Chief Komandt and implement daytime staffing. Her motion was not seconded by either of the other trustees.
When questioned about why they were removing Chief Komandt, the trustees would not tell us. One trustee did say, "We feel like it's time to move in a different direction." He repeated later in the meeting, "We're moving in a different direction."
At that time, another trustee said,"We did not vote on that." She was referring to the Ohio law that requires all discussion and decision making be conducted in a public meeting. Her statement was ignored, so she made another motion to support Chief Komandt and implement daytime staffing. Once again, no second was given.
After almost an hour, the trustees would not tell us why they were replacing Chief Komandt or what the new direction for the fire department was.
Several times during the meeting, the other fireman and fire chiefs supported Chief Komandt and tried to explain that the lack of daytime volunteers was a common problem for volunteer fire departments everywhere. They encouraged trustees to implement daytime staffing, as has been done in most other Geauga County volunteer fire departments.
I left the meeting frustrated and disgusted. I talked with many of the people outside who felt the same way. How can we let two people advance their own personal agenda while risking the health and safety of the very people they were elected to represent? How can two people take a well-respected fire chief with 40 years of dedicated service and throw him under the bus? The answer is simple. They can do it only if we let them.
Please, you overwhelmingly supported the fire department with your vote on the last levy. Now the fire department needs your vocal support. Call your trustees and tell them you've had enough of the back door maneuvering and you want them to support Chief Komandt and get daytime staffing implemented now.
Editor's Note: Jon Ferguson is the husband of Parkman Township Trustee Nancy Ferguson.
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Twp. Trustees : 12/10/2012
The Trustees pulled the same kind of stunt in Montville. They did not want to listen to the past fire chief of many years and are trying to start paying without knowing what they are doing. Two Trustees doing their own thing. The past Chief had support from the main members, but the Trustees would not listen.
Parkman Fire Dept. need your support : 12/4/2012
This is in support of Chief Paul Komandt. I too know the many hours that the Chief has put in gathering information about the part time fire personnel. I think it is an absolute mandate that we maintain Chief Komandt and impeach the two trustees that have taken the law into their own hands at the expense of the lives of the Parkman residents.