MOUNT GILEAD — Village Fire Chief Chad Swank wants to do more. With an annual operating budget right around $400,000, a need to increase wages and upgrade equipment were reasons for seeking help from village residents.
They will vote on a 0.25 percent levy increase on income on the Aug. 3 special election ballot.
“We do a lot, but we can do a lot more, especially in the area of prevention,” Swank said.
Upgrading old equipment and paying his staff more are priorities.
“I don’t have an equipment replacement program. I don’t have the ability to replace an engine,” he said. “My front-line fire engine is 2005.
“My average wage right now is $11.88 an hour across the board. It’s hard on the part-time side for recruitment and retention. We’re about a dollar an hour short of everyone else (surrounding communities’ departments).”
Fire suppression, rescue services, auto extrication, rope rescue and HAZMAT operation are among core services the department provides.
Swank points out he and his crew also perform fire safety inspections for adoption and foster care families and commercial businesses.
He would like to add a part-time inspector’s position to aid in those efforts.
“We’re a training ground for firefighters; but that’s OK. I actually had a fire chief in here recruiting because he knows what we bring to the table in our training of firefighters.”
Swank said his department is operating with a small budget deficit.
The ladder truck is 37 years old as an example of aging equipment. “It has a service life of 20 years. We’ve got to replace it somehow.”
Other equipment also needs replaced because it is at the end of its service life.
“Our thermal imaging cameras that everybody touts are 15 years old. There’s a lot of things we are trying to replace.”
Swank realizes the federal CARES money that the MGFD and others have received “was a one-time gift.”
Those funds do not go toward operating expenses and wages, but were used for buying first-responders equipment.
“We live on grants. Grants should be a supplemental, not a live-by. That’s how we’re surviving right now.”
In 2012 there was a township fire levy; the last village of Mount Gilead fire levy on the ballot was 2005.
“Our call volume is up. Last year we had 430 calls and I’m on pace to break that again. It’s huge,” Swank said.