Eastlake Committee Chair Mr. Hoefle opened the meeting at approximately 6:00 p.m. Members of the Committee in attendance were Mr. Hoefle, Mr. Evers and Mrs. Quinn-Hopkins. Present from Council were Mr. Licht, Ms. Vaughn, Ms. DePledge and Council President D’Ambrosio.
In attendance from the Administration were Mayor Morley and Fire Chief Whittington.
In attendance from Willoughby’s Council were Councilman-at-Large Mr. Black, Ward 3 Councilman Mr. Fiala, and Ward 6 Councilman Mr. Harold.
In attendance from Willoughby’s Administration were Mayor Anderson, Law Director Wiles, Finance Director Rogowski, Fire Chief Zwegat, Assistant Fire Chief Curt Cook and Council Clerk Radebaugh.
Also in attendance were members of the public.
DISCUSSION: SHARED USAGE/EASTLAKE FIRE DEPARTMENT LADDER TRUCK
Mr. Hoefle: We have one item on the agenda this evening – the discussion of the shared use of the Eastlake ladder truck. Mayor Morley?
Mayor Morley: As everyone knows Mayor Anderson, both Chiefs and I met a couple of weeks ago to discuss the issue of Willoughby taking over our Fire Department’s ladder truck which we do not have the manpower to use. Chief Whittington first mentioned it to me. Mayor Anderson?
Mayor Anderson: Our ladder truck looks like it is out of service permanently. It has suffered a crack in the structure of the frame and we have been going back and forth for months with the manufacturer to try to fix it to have it certified. Quite frankly we are still looking at a couple of outside options that could be fixed. But even if it could be it will not be in the near future. Our ladder and your ladder truck were purchased at the exact same time. Mayor DiLiberto and I bought two ladder trucks together and saved a grand total of about $50,000. They are one serial number apart and are exactly the same. Both Departments are very, very familiar with each other’s ladder truck. It looks like ours is going to be permanently out of commission. We started talking about what we were going to do and he told me he had already had conversation with Chief Whittington. This really came from the two Chiefs – an idea that possibly we could share. This is not without precedence right now. Middleburg Heights and Brookpark will be sharing a truck and someone on the east end is also sharing a truck – Concord and Painesville and Madison and Perry. They actually have Memoranda of Understanding. It is certainly not without precedent and makes sense. If we had to go back 14 years we may not have bought two trucks but instead bought one. That is the kind of thing we are going to be looking for in the future. I agreed to do this and think it makes a lot of sense for both cities. I hope we get a lot of years out of this ladder truck but however long it lasts eventually someone will be faced with the decision of what do we do next. I think this is a great opportunity and appreciate Eastlake’s willingness to listen to us and consider this.
Mayor Morley: Mayor Anderson, Mayor Bonde, Mayor Margalis, Mayor Weigart and I have been meeting on different things to start looking at what we can do. Since we were always ahead of the game on being behind the game with the money issues in our City – and, ever since I have been in office Mayor Anderson has been great to me and a good mentor to follow through these trying times. I appreciate Chief Zwegat and I think we can have a good working relationship between the cities. We are all looking at what is best for our cities and the more we work together the better for our cities. Our Council knows I am backing this – what our Chief wants to do. We did hand out the Middleburg Heights agreement and see a couple of things. We can turn this over to the Chiefs.
Chief Whittington: Most everyone here is very aware of our financial situation. As Chief I have been managing misery for the last 7 years. When we did contingency planning in 2011 we made almost $1 million in cuts in the Fire Department. When we made those cuts we looked globally where we were at and at that time one of the discussion’s was the viability of having a ladder truck in Eastlake. My thoughts on this go back several years. As most of you know our levy failed in November and I knew I would be losing 3 people. Our ladder trucks that we both have are somewhat unique – they are platform ladders. Most of the time during a fire those trucks are put in a position where we would do prolonged water operations or effect a rescue. I have reduced staffing for mutual aid to 3 people. For me to send three guys with the ladder truck and ask them to affect a rescue would be an unsafe operation. Within days of the levy failing I called Chief Zwegat and mentioned the idea of the sharing of the truck. We just went through an ISO rating – you get 4 points credit for a ladder truck – we got less than 1 point for the ladder because we cannot staff it. We don’t run it in our own community. If a fire happened where I needed a ladder truck with the ladder truck being in Willoughby then Willoughby would be our ladder truck. That has been the way it has been since I became Fire Chief. We started the automatic response system and if we needed a ladder truck Willoughby brought there’s. I ran the numbers since 2008 – our ladder truck has responded to an average of 3 calls a year in the City of Eastlake and of those 3 calls none were fires – they were all support role functions. As I looked at this it made a lot of sense. We average a significant amount of maintenance costs and the big problem with our ladder truck at this point is it does not do anything – it sits in the bay. We have had to take heaters out of that bay because when the truck does not run it dry rots the truck electrical. Currently, the ladder truck has been sent to our maintenance people – we did a bumper to bumper inspection and they returned a list of things that need to be accomplished on the truck which we are working on right now. So, if this deal would go through you would be getting a ladder truck that is up to current maintenance. I put together a maintenance record for the last 7 years. From my perspective I do not want people to think this is a sour grape type thing. Most certainly this is a safety issue foremost for my people. I cannot put them in a situation where they are going to another community with a truck that is not staffed correctly. And, it is just sitting there and I think we can do something better. Mayor Anderson was right. I brought it to my boss and Chief Zwegat. This is not from a political point of view but was from an operational point of view. I stand behind the fact that Willoughby/Eastlake work together and the relationship we have has strengthened. You have been a friend. We try to think outside the box and check our egos at the door. It is basically what we can do for our community and residents and people who visit our community and our people. There is no hidden agenda here.
Chief Zwegat: We first spoke the beginning of October. So, the levy had nothing to do with it. The crack in our frame was discovered during our annual required inspection on September 15th. As I informed our City Council the following night it was going to be a lot of research that went into a long term problem. We basically spent 4 ½ months researching every conceivable scenario. Our Law Director has done a thorough research on subrogation. For your ladder truck like ours 3 manufactures have parts for the vehicles – 2 have been out of business for almost 15 years. The one that warranted the vehicles frame for life has been out of business since 1999. Beginning in October Chief Whittington and I started a dialogue but we were so early in our research phase. Eastlake and Willoughby started West Lake County automatic mutual aid. Everyone else rode on our shirttails about 2 ½ months later because it was working so well. As both Mayor Morley and Mayor Anderson know Eastlake comes to Willoughby’s fires and Willoughby goes to Eastlake’s fires. What is unique about the truck is there are only two of them in the State of Ohio. Ours is out of service. We can operate the truck and Eastlake can operate the truck. We worked on fires in our City with Eastlake guys working on our truck with our guys. We are almost interchangeable. So, when this was looking like the replacement cost was between $650,000 and $2 million we have talked about when Willoughby Hills bought a platform truck whether we really needed all these units. You are required by ISO to pump so many gallons a minute that is why you have to have so many engines. A ladder truck is a different story. Unfortunately your levy did not pass and Chief Whittington and I spoke more and felt the decision was above our pay grade and should include the Mayors, Councils and Law Directors. As Mayor Morley said for lack of a better phrase we are taking over your truck – we are not taking over your truck. We will respond it for you. It is your truck. If we decide to move forward on this and 6 weeks from now you want it back it is yours. Our County HazMat vehicle which was purchased with Federal dollars is titled to the City of Willoughby but technically the County owns it and Council agreed to it in 2006. This is why this is something for the Law Directors to hammer out and for City Councils to approve. This also buys us a little more time. As the Mayor told you we have a shred of hope. We are trying to get more information about a possible proposed fix. I am not too optimistic. With the repairs proposed no one will certify the truck. If this was a garbage truck it would be on the road hauling trash but because it goes 100 feet in the air with men in it there are requirements. The legal side should something catastrophically happy would be astronomical. This buys us a little time because being a lifelong Willoughby resident the last thing I want to do is have to scrap it. I cannot in good conscious do that so we will exhaust everything. We have looked at building a new truck out of the components. It saves us the cost of about $300,000 but it takes a lot of time. This allows us to use your truck to respond to both communities because right now I cannot guarantee a ladder truck to respond. It allows us to park our ladder truck in your bay for the short term. I cannot define short term – it could be several months. I am hoping by June we will know if we can salvage this thing or not. The crack is 8 inches long. I never thought that would be the demise of this truck.
Mayor Morley: We talked about a Memorandum of Understanding and a $1 lease – however the Law Directors want to work it out. I think the document provided is a good boiler plate. There are a couple of things. I have forwarded this to our Law Director. The Mayor and I and the Chiefs talked about the $1 lease. We may not even need to do that. I think this is good for both communities – for the City of Willoughby because it shows to the residents that they are looking for alternatives and for us because it shows we are looking at working with other cities. That is what we need to continue to do – work with other cities. Not just us but all the surrounding cities. As I continue to say Wickliffe and Willowick are not too far behind us in going into deficit spending as soon as the end of 2016. During the meetings between the five Mayors we continue to talk about that.
Mayor Anderson: I think what we are looking for tonight is some consensus – that you think this makes a lot of sense. And then let the Mayors, Chiefs and Law Directors work it out something we are comfortable with and bring it back to the perspective Councils and try to make it as simple as possible.
Mayor Morley: A good thing is we have the same insurance companies. Our Finance Directors have called on this. Obviously, the mutual aid will always happen.
Chief Whittington: Operationally this does not change anything for the City of Eastlake. If we had a fire on Waverly I do not need Willoughby to bring a ladder truck. His shift commanders know what to bring. I know what to bring to the City of Willoughby. Most of the fires in this community don’t necessarily need a lot of fire trucks – they need a lot of people.
Mayor Morley: I will not speak for Council but by their looks it appears they are all in favor of moving forward with this.
Ms. DePledge: Obviously we have financial conditions here that we have to be aware of. What is the value of the truck and what if we actually sold it? I understand it is a value to Willoughby and a value for the mutual aid but we owe it to our residents to say what the value is and what we are doing with it. It is paid off and has a value. What are we giving away? Obviously we are getting something back but what is the offset?
Chief Whittington: We are not giving it away. We are sharing it. I do not know if I have a number. It is probably not as much as you think.
Chief Zwegat: I do not know if there is a value to it. However, for a community your size and one our size the public protection class established by ISO is what your residents and businesses pay. For communities our size ISO says we shall have a ladder truck. If you have five buildings three stories more in height or requires 3,500 per minute or 35 feet in height or greater – any combination thereof. We both have them. In my opinion that makes the truck priceless. It would almost behoove us to have one. Whether we each have one or purchase one together in the future we need to have a vehicle so both communities can share and utilize it. I am not worried about a rescue because architects do not always take everything into consideration. For example, Pineridge Apartments – there are building we can reach the 9th floor with the truck and buildings we can only reach the 3rd floor because of lawn setbacks, overhead structures, parked cars – a hundred reasons. Plus, it is only 100 feet long – it would not be any good if it was 150 feet away. During a fire at a metal seals company this past summer our truck was pumping on one side and Mentor’s was pumping on the other – it was a $50 million loss. Our truck and Mentor’s truck prevented the fire from spreading to the rest of the buildings. Ladder trucks give you that knockout punch on those big fires.
Mr. Evers: Our Chief said we use our truck about 3 times a year – what about Willoughby?
Chief Zwegat: We respond about 350 to 400 times a year. Ours and Mentors are the two most responding ladder trucks.
Mr. Evers: What timeframe are we looking at?
Chief Zwegat: Willoughby’s Safety Committee discussed this a couple of weeks ago. Your truck is 18 years old just like ours. Obviously we are going to take over insurance, maintenance and all those types of things but the clock is ticking.
Mr. Evers: That is my point.
Chief Zwegat: Right now we have time to plan – it could be 2 years from now or 6 – or it could be 6 weeks.
Mr. Evers: Chief Whittington, if Willoughby needed that truck could we man it safety?
Chief Whittington: No.
Mr. Evers: That is my point. The time frame is of the essence to all of us.
Mr. Cook: We have talked about the safety issue of the truck. Our truck has sat since September. They had it out the other day and it is sluggish. I know with them sitting that long and things could dry rot and with oil and such not being changed in just a short amount of time ours has started going downhill. If you do not use them day in and day out – it is a piece of equipment that needs to be run.
Chief Zwegat: When raising the bed ladder they had to use the manual override because the hydraulic lines did not work. Even with it parked here they will pull the truck out once a week and put it through its paces. If there is a chance it could be repaired we do not want it going to pot just sitting there – which is exactly what will happen.
Mayor Anderson: I see what Ms. DePledge means – the residents may ask what kind of an asset are you giving away? My answer would be – we are not giving away an asset – we are sharing it with another community with that community picking up the cost of maintenance and certification and insurance and the cost to man it. There is overtime with every fire we go to. The cost is our commitment to it. Yours may be the physical asset. Ours is the ongoing cost of maintaining it. There is a definite financial benefit.
Ms. DePledge: If you are doing all those things you are actually preserving our asset. I am looking for things to explain why this is a good idea. The bad comment will be – why did you give that away and we have to be able to explain to our residents that this is a benefit to both communities and a smart decision.
Mayor Morley: We are not giving it away.
Ms. Vaughn: It is not an asset to us if we cannot use it. We don’t have the staff to use it.
Mr. Licht: You mentioned the ISO rating. For clarification if Eastlake’s truck is being used by Willoughby does Eastlake get credit? Does it increase the ISO rating for us?
Chief Whittington: Right now – when we went through the review it is a 2 ½ mile radius that we can get credit for a ladder truck. Willoughby is actually outside of that. The benefit we have now is that Willowick is responding with a fire engine with an elevated ladder. I believe Willowick falls within that 2 ½ miles. If they would come out again we would get credit for having Willowick’s. We get credit for having another reserve fire engine out of the ladder truck.
Mayor Morley: We just got the ISO report and the Chief and I went over it. Our rating is the same. Actually our points were a little better than last year. The trucks rating went down because we are not using it but we are still at the same number as the previous year.
Chief Zwegat: Our Ward 1 and Ward 2 area is outside the 2 ½ miles for us. So with your area in Eastlake that is close to the Willoughby line. But most of Eastlake would fall within the 2 ½ mile parameter. We understand that a lot of citizens may look poorly on this. We are looking at it as collaboration. With today’s buzzwords of consolidation and regionalization, working together, shared services – I think more can be gained by both communities by being on the front end of that. Because no one told us to do this.
Ms. DePledge: I support it. I am just looking at what we do if our phones start ringing – especially when we are trying to pass a new tax levy. They are going to ask why did you give this away? And we will go back with all these explanations but it will come down to a number.
Chief Zwegat: We even looked at the negative connotation of our own manpower – Eastlake firefighters and Willoughby firefighters. It has been presented to them. We are looking at what is best for the community. These are things the West Lake County Chiefs have talked about for years. We looked at ways to do things most effectively. We have tried to share that same philosophy with the people in our departments – it actually saves money because it cuts down on overtime costs and everything else – and provides a better level of customer service. When we presented it to our officers – both Chief Whittington and I – they were actually in favor of it and said it made sense.
Chief Whittington: We have a test pit at our station. Every year fire pumpers and ladder trucks are required to be pump tested. Willoughby brings their fire engines to Eastlake to tested. We share that. So there is really no difference between us sharing the ladder truck and sharing the test pit.
Chief Zwegat: We keep our suction hose at your fire station hose tower and take it out once a year to use it.
Mayor Anderson: The other thing to ensure the residents on collaboration – this is just the start. The Lake County Mayors and Managers are part of a study funded by the State of Ohio on fire department consolidation – when it makes sense to consolidate. The answer is no – it does not make financial sense. However, one of the things it will recommend is the east end, central end and west end of the County form an organization where we actually look at our capital needs for the future – what we are going to need to purchase. So we are all doing something together. This is really a great start. There is a lot more of this to come in the future.
Mayor Morley: I reported that the last time we talked. If we get the consent we will set up a meeting between the Mayors and Chiefs and go from there.
Mr. Hoefle: We will take a poll – is everyone in favor of this?
Mr. Licht: Yes.
Ms. DePledge: Yes.
Mr. Evers: The sooner the better.
Unidentified responses: Yes.
Mr. Hoefle: Yes.
Willoughby Councilman: Your answer to your constituents is you don’t have the manpower to run it – it is rotting away in the barn.
Ms. DePledge: I just wanted to know what it is worth.
Chief Whittington: I think this is an opportunity for the Mayors to be on the front of this discussion and do something with the News Herald and say what we have done and why we have done it. If we are on the front end of this communication we may still get questions but we are presenting it to them. They are not coming to us for answers. We are giving them the answers. Politically this is a good opportunity for both the Mayors to say what we are trying to accomplish and what we have done. This is hurting no one and is not a detriment to anyone. I know anytime the Mayor has had to do something it has been looked at by the residents as being done because they did not pass the levy. That is why I reiterated that this was my idea.
Mr. Licht: Is there somewhere we can get a quote so we can provide that information when we are asked?
Ms. DePledge: Whatever it is – all the benefit that will come from it will offset the cost. I know that but I need to be able to explain it.
Mr. Rogowski: It is likely the value of this truck has been amortized over 20 years and we are almost there – it is somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000. You may get more if you traded it in because they will up the price.
Ms. DePledge: That is a great answer – I can say this is all it is worth and what we are getting for what it is worth is a hundred times better than having it sit being idle.
Mr. Hoefle: The consensus is we want to move this forward so the Mayor, Chiefs and Law Directors can get together a Memorandum of Understanding.
There were no further questions or comments.
There was no Miscellaneous.
REGOGNITION OF PUBLIC
There was no one who wished to speak.
The meeting was adjourned at 6:45 p.m.