LIBERTY TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Liberty trustees decided Monday afternoon to move forward with a study that would determine if merging the township’s fire department with Girard’s would be worthwhile for both communities.
Firefighters from both departments are worried forming a single district would mean longer response times.
Trustees want to use the feasibility study to gather information so they can make a decision about the departments’ futures based on data.
Emotions ran high as firefighters and residents reacted to the trustees’ decision.
“We’re not changing our vote so we’re gonna have the vote, then you can speak,” Trustee Stanley Nudell said.
That didn’t sit well with many people who said they felt their voices were not being heard.
“We want a voice. We do not want three of you to decide what 13,000 of us want done,” Eileen Smith said.
“You were elected to your positions to represent us, not to decide for us,” Sandra Webber said.
Justin Graham, president of the local 2075 firefighters union, said it seemed like a “benevolent dictatorship” instead of a democracy.
Some did show up in favor of the feasibility study, however.
“I don’t see what a study hurts. I think it helps us to better understand whether or not there is a more reasonable way of delivering these services,” Robert Clyde said.
Jim Zupamic was also happy the trustees voted for the study.
“We can get some answers to some of these questions and then go ahead and make up our minds in the future,” he said.
Those upset with the idea of consolidating the two departments said they thought the issue was over after a meeting last month when several spoke out against it.
“I feel their distress is with regards to change, and change does get people worked up and people don’t like change,” Trustee Jodi Stoyak said.
Liberty Township trustees said they’ll only be moving forward if Girard Council is also on board.
Girard Council met Monday night, but it did not discuss the feasibility study. Instead, council members talked about a levy to raise water rates 11 percent and sewer rates 7 percent to help pay for a new roof for the water treatment plant.