Department heads voice concerns about staffing
City department heads voiced their concerns about under staffing during the mid-year reports at Monday night’s Tiffin City Council meeting.
“We’re definitely struggling,” Mayor Aaron Montz said. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel as far as economic development jobs being created but it takes a long time to dig ourselves out of that hole. Especially with the cards that the state of Ohio dealt us.”
Montz said it would cost nearly $1 million in salaries to hire enough employees to fully staff the police and fire departments.
Tiffin Fire Rescue Division Chief Bill Ennis said for the first time since 1997, when the Fire Rescue Division was combined, the department was unable to respond immediately to a call.
Ennis highlighted events that occurred May 14 as a “practical warning that public safety staffing cuts put the community in danger.”
He said within 20 minutes of each incident, the division had to put out a fire behind Hunan King and rescue a person with a broken hip on Penn Street. He said the patient had to suffer longer because the department was not able to respond to the call faster due to understaffing.
Tiffin Police Department Chief Fred Stevens echoed that sentiment, and said the understaffed police department is doing the best it can, but is struggling to deter crime and drug use in the city.
Stevens said last weekend the department received 175 calls for service during a 72-hour period, and it is on pace to field 14,880 calls for the year up from 14,226 last year.
“I firmly believe that the PD is paying a price right now for being undermanned, which in turn means that the public is also paying that price,” he said. “They already are complaining about the longer response times and the drug issues and increased thefts from vehicles and garages.”
Stevens said drug use has increased in Tiffin, with prescription drugs, heroin and synthetic drugs such as bath salts and K2 being used – not only by adults, but by teenagers as well.
“There is a direct nexus connection between proactive policing and crime rates being lower,” he said. “You will never eliminate all crime, no matter if you gave us 50 officers, as there will still be crime, but I have already proven to you that 24-26 officers is only allowing us to tread water and barely keep our noses above that water line.”
He said since Nov. 19, 1999, the department has been fully staffed for only 24 days.
Tiffin Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve Dryfuse said the department is making due with its three employees, but is also feeling the adverse effects of being understaffed.
Dryfuse said during the summer, the department hires interns to help deal with the small staff size.
“We have some really nice parks, but if they’re not maintained properly, they just bring the whole neighborhood down in a lot of ways,” he said.
Public Works Director Mike Hoffman said his department is down to 12 employees, which only allows for four crews to work around the city on most days.
“So far, we’ve been able to keep our head above water, as far as I’m concerned,” Hoffman said. “We’re making some changes with the times, and we’re trying to make corrections. So this is a year of learning working with less people, trying to schedule to get things done.”
In other business, the council heard the first of three readings of an ordinance that would sell nearly seven acres of city-owned land in Eagle Rock Business Park to American Fine Sinter Co. for $15,000 per acre.
In new business, the council approved of the following resolutions and amendments by a vote of 7-0:
* A resolution accepting the recommendation of the tax incentive review council to continue the tax exemption agreement with Seneca Medical Inc., and declaring an emergency.
* An ordinance amending the budget authorizing the transfer of funds from the 552 sewer revenue fund to the 557 combined sewer separation fund, and declaring an emergency.
* An ordinance authorizing the city administrator to prepare specifications, advertise for and receive bids and execute contracts for salt to be used on the streets of Tiffin.
* An ordinance authorizing the city administrator to prepare specifications, advertise for and receive bids and execute contracts for the 2013 Street Paving program.