LIBERTY TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Efforts to conduct a study about consolidating Girard’s and Liberty Township’s fire departments were shut down Wednesday night due to backlash from the community.
Leaders in the two communities met at Liberty Township Hall to talk about making a single district — and many voices were raised as the meeting turned heated, making it clear that most were against a joint fire district.
“I do not want to merge with anybody else,” one meeting attendee said. “This is my township and I ain’t sharing it with anybody.”
Liberty Township trustees said this idea has been ongoing for the last five years.
The first step would have been to pass a resolution to move forward with a feasibility study to determine if consolidating would reduce taxes for residents. The study would have cost an estimated $50,000, though officials said there would have been no cost to taxpayers.
“With both entities, this would bring down the cost and save some money,” said Stan Nudell, Liberty Township trustee.
“We’re not doing this to service us,” said Liberty Township trustee Jodi Stoyak. “And the mayor and the council is not doing this to service them. This is just a beginning.”
Firefighters from Liberty and Girard were both at Wednesday’s meeting, as well as members of several other fire departments supporting them.
People in favor of the merge said the joint fire department would have saved money, decreased insurance costs for neighbors, and created a board solely dedicated to the management of the fire department.
Those who disagreed, including firefighters from both departments, said a central fire station would have caused some of them to lose their jobs. They also said response times could increase to 15 or 16 minutes in some cases.
After about an hour of public comments, the trustees decided there was enough opposition and they will not go forward with the study.
“The attitude here is Liberty wants to stay on [its] own, Girard wants to stay on [its] own,” Nudell said.