Three fire departments in Butler Township prepared to merge
Three of the five volunteer fire departments in Butler Township plan to consolidate by early next year, officials there say.
Consolidation of the Greenwood Village, Lyndora and Meridian volunteer fire departments will improve response times and eventually save the fire companies money, township Manager Ed Kirkwood said.
“The departments think consolidation means that there will be better response time for the community. There will be more of a concentration of membership in one station. They can answer calls more efficiently,” Kirkwood said.
Butler Township has five volunteer fire departments. The Mercer Road Volunteer Fire Department and the South Butler Volunteer Fire Department plan to stay independent.
Under the plan, the consolidated department will be run out of the Meridian Volunteer Fire Department. The Lyndora Volunteer Fire Department will serve as a substation, and the Greenwood Village Volunteer Fire Department would close.
The township has conducted several public hearings on the merger. According to Kirkwood, there has been little opposition to the plan.
“We've had some residents question whether the township plans to cut back funding for fire departments. We do not,” Kirkwood said.
The township gives each of its five fire departments $61,912 annually.
That money is generally used for day-to-day expenses and not for equipment, Kirkwood said.
The real savings will come as the department buys equipment, which is often paid for with money fire departments raise with carnivals and gun bashes.
“The three fire companies all planned to buy a new engine in the next four years. Engines cost about $750,000. Buying three would cost $2.25 million, but they will only need one engine,” Kirkwood said.
The plan also would not reduce the number of volunteers, said Toby Wehr, chief of the Meridian department and one of about 20 members of a commission formed late last year to plan the consolidation.
“We always want as many members as possible.
It's become harder in recent years to keep members,” Wehr said.
There are 38 volunteers at Meridian, 18 at Greenwood Village and 14 at Lyndora.
With 17,285 residents, Butler Township is more populated than the city of Butler, which has 13,757 residents and a paid fire department.
“We rely on volunteers. We have not had problems with it. Membership has gone down, though,” Kirkwood said.
Wehr and Kirkwood said they expect the merger will save money, but do not know how much.
“One department will cost less, especially as far as future purchases of equipment go.
“We will not have to duplicate expensive equipment the way we do now,” Wehr said.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.