Loudonville, Western Holmes fire departments head toward mutual aid split

A car crosses the Ashland/Holmes counties line as it travels west of state Route 39 into the village of Loudonville on Feb. 7. Some residents of Knox and Washington townships in Holmes County are worried about response times for fire and EMS services since the Western Holmes Fire District and Loudonville Fire Department will no longer have a mutual aid agreement as of Feb. 12.

LOUDONVILLE − A disagreement over what constitutes mutual fire aid, and how much that protection should cost has led two agencies to sever ties, and left some residents wondering if they'll get a prompt response when an emergency happens.

Mayor Jason VanSickle announced at the Feb. 6 Village Council meeting that the Western Holmes Fire District is terminating its contract with the village for fire and emergency services, effective Feb. 12.

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This means residents of Holmes County's Washington and Knox townships, who had received these services from the Loudonville Fire Department will now be served by the Lakeville and Nashville departments, which are in the Western Holmes Fire District.

“What can we do?" Carla Goudy, who lives about three miles southeast of the village — far closer to Loudonville's fire department than to either department in Nashville or Lakeville — asked the question at Monday's public meeting.

Later she jested that if someone in her family has an emergency, “we’ll drive to the swimming pool, since it is within the Loudonville village limits.”

Loudonville Fire Department is seen here on Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022. TOM E. PUSKAR/TIMES-GAZETTE.COM
Loudonville Fire Department is seen here on Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022. TOM E. PUSKAR/TIMES-GAZETTE.COM

Loudonville notified of Western Holmes' decision via Facebook post

VanSickle said he and the Loudonville Fire Department learned of Western Holmes' decision through a Feb. 3 Facebook post.

“They didn’t even tell us, either through direct communication or email, of their decision,” the mayor said. “We’ve been fighting over this for months, and they couldn’t tell us directly of their decision.”

VanSickle said the average annual amount paid by Holmes County townships for fire contracts is $50,000, according to information he got from the Holmes County Auditor’s Office. Western Holmes paid Loudonville $21,500.

The Facebook post said the Fire District “will no longer provide fire and EMS mutual aid services to the village of Loudonville,” a decision that came after the village "rejected the district’s proposed mutual aid contract."

The Loudonville Fire Department was notified through a Facebook post by the Western Holmes Fire District that it is severing its contract with the village for fire and emergency services, effective Feb. 12. Some residents of Knox and Washington townships just outside of Loudonville in Holmes County are concerned about getting a prompt response in an emergency.

That proposal involved a one-year contract at the same $21,500 rate, plus a one-year mutual aid agreement in which each party agrees to provide 30 mutual aid responses for free. After 30 calls, the department providing service would be paid $500 for each call from the recipient government.

Western Holmes proposed the mutual aid agreement with Loudonville, according to the Facebook post, because of the "lopsided response exchange" in 2021 and last year, noting that in 2022 the fire district's response ratio to the village was 10-to-1.

"The Board believes that this ratio does not represent true mutual aid, but is instead a subsidy of the village by district taxpayers. In addition, the district responded to 20% of the dispatched calls in its contracted area due to the village’s lack of response," the post states.

Loudonville makes a responding Facebook post

In a responding Facebook post, Loudonville Fire Chief Dan Robinson said mutual aid between fire departments has been a long-standing courtesy to assure that residents have the necessary assistance for their emergency.

Both Robinson and VanSickle said Loudonville will continue to provide mutual aid to Western Holmes when requested, along with any other fire department.

Robinson also said contracts like the one Western Holmes had with Loudonville “have been in place with area fire departments since the 1960s.”

This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: Loudonville, Western Holmes fire departments near mutual aid split