Safety Forces Committee seeks a volunteer to join

Feb. 13—ASHTABULA — The City Council's Safety Forces Committee met on Monday morning to discuss safety reports.

The meeting began with remarks from Retired Fire Chief Rick Balog with a call for someone to join the Committee.

"I think it should be somebody who is familiar with city operations," Balog said. "If you could find a retired safety forces person that would be ideal. The restrictions are you have to live in the city and that doesn't seem to be a real popular thing sometimes. It's a volunteer job and volunteers are hard to find."

According to Balog, the Safety Committee meets as needed when the chiefs need someone to be promoted or they need to schedule tests. They met four times last year. There's not a lot of meetings involved.

"Familiarity can be a good thing in this case," Balog said.

"If I'm trying to get somebody that has no familiarity with how we work inside," said Fire Chief Shawn Gruber. "The work can still be done, it's just going to be a lot more cumbersome."

The police reported that calls for service jumped up in January due to the warmer weather.

Jail numbers have been low.

"Typically of late, there are around 4 inmates," said Police Chief Robert Stell. "Those inmates are overstaying their time, because the county jail is so overloaded. We are doing our best to get them out."

Arrests have also been low, at 13 for February.

The fire department reported that the year began with quite a few fires. One being fatal.

"We've been installing a lot of smoke detectors I'd say within the last two to three weeks," Gruber said.

Smoke detectors are being supplied by the Red Cross, so the fire department can install detectors in anyone's home, regardless of income.

The Lake County and Ashtabula County Fire Chiefs are meeting in Geneva later today at 2 p.m. to brainstorm how they want to handle boat safety on Lake Erie after the U.S. Coast Guard announced large-scale staffing reductions at the Ashtabula Harbor station.

"We need to educate these boaters," Gruber said. "They need to know to have their boat serviced. We go out if there's a life in danger. We can't handle all the calls that the Coast Guard can."

The department is trying to find the best way to screen calls for boating incidents and hope to resolve this in the meeting.

"I am still extremely leery of taking any funds from the Coast Guard," said City Manager Jim Timonere. "I do still feel that the more that they train us, the further and further they will get from coming back. It's not something we want to do. It's not in our wheelhouse."

According to Timonere, although the council feels this way, they are aware of the Coast Guard's two hour response time. They do not want someone to have to wait that long for help.

cball@starbeacon.com