EAST CLEVELAND, OH Nowadays, firefighters roll out of the East Cleveland Fire Department on a wing and a prayer.
East Cleveland firefighter Thomas Buth not mincing words when he says the Department is in “dire straits” with antiquated equipment falling apart and in desperate need of repair.
Buth, who is also the president Local 500 Firefighter Union, stood between two fire trucks when he told Channel 3 reporter Dawn Kendrick, “You know this engine was fixed with parts off of this engine. Being that it’s a frontline, unit we had to almost rob Peter to pay Paul.”
The list of needed repairs is long and the city is broker than broke.
In such financial shambles, the state is again forced to control the purse strings under fiscal emergency.
You don’t have to be a mechanic to see the main frontline engine has several leaks underneath.
“It has a water leak from our tank and the pump and also a diesel leak, but we’re still running it. That’s all we got,” said Buth.
Firefighters do patch up equipment repairs when they can. Buth says calls to service shops they used in the past for quotes come back saying, “We can’t give you a quote because the city owes us too much money.”
Even a donated truck needs maintenance now, and Buth says there is no money to fix it.
Tuesday morning, firefighters used their own money to have brakes fixed and an EMS unit.
“These are saving people’s lives and property. If I was paying taxes in the city of East Cleveland, I would be very, very upset,” said Buth. “We need to get a handle on this.”
Mayor Gary Norton did not return phone calls Monday or Tuesday, but he’s called a town hall meeting to “discuss the next steps in considering a merger of East Cleveland with the city of Cleveland. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 2nd at 6:30 p.m. at the McGregor Home on Private Drive in East Cleveland.
Last month, Norton told Channel 3’s Tom Beres, “Something structural must be done in order to preserve services into the future.”
In the meantime, for firefighters, Buth says getting to the fire could be as dangerous as fighting it: “We are technically a sneeze away from catastrophe.”
Norton will point out that The Northeast Ohio Alliance of Hope cites a startling statistic from a U.S. Census Bureau report. According to the data, more than 17,000 East Cleveland residents, only 5,000 are employed.
That means the income tax burden is on those residents.
Residents are urged to come and share their ideas at Thursday’s town hall meeting.