NEWARK, OH — A Central Ohio fire chief said he is working with his mayor and city leaders to address an issue impacting his department.
“Since July of 2016, I think we’ve lost 13 firefighters,” said Newark Fire Chief Pat Connor. “It’s very frustrating.”
Of the 13 who have left, Connor said ten have done so to join departments offering higher wages.
According to state records, the starting salary for a firefighter in Newark is $35,159.33.
The Newark Fire Department can employ up to 79 firefighters.
Comparably, the Lancaster Fire Department can employ 70 firefighters. Starting salary there is $50,142, according to Chief David Ward.
Connor pointed to a significant loss in funding from the state, as part of why the city offers it’s current wages.
“The loss of a local government funding several years ago impacted the city of Newark about $2.4-million, every year,” he said. “That money goes directly into the general fund budget, which police and fire operate out of.”
City councilman Jeremey Blake said he hopes to regain those funds, from the state.
Blake also said he wants to hold a community discussion on the issue, to determine ways in which firefighters can be retained.
One option could include putting a public safety levy on a future ballot.
“At this point, I would be in favor of going back to our local voters, if needed, to increase revenue for that, so that’s definitely on the table,” he said.
Chief Connor made it clear that the retainment issue is not impacting public safety.
“We’re providing a good service to them [the people of Newark],” he explained. “We will continue to provide a good service.”
Last year, the Newark Fire Department responded to roughly 11,250 calls for service.
Connor said that number is continually rising.