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Miami Township

Firefighters working to douse an apartment fire on Aug. 12, 2023. (Photo by Reilly Dixon)

Miami Township Trustees approve firefighter pensions

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After a month-and-a-half of deliberation, Miami Township Trustees unanimously voted at their regular meeting Monday, May 20, to approve a resolution to reclassify three Miami Township Fire-Rescue, or MTFR, positions as full-time, pensioned positions.

As the News has reported in past issues, the resolution was first brought forward April 1 by Dennis Powell — who, on Monday night, trustees voted unanimously to appoint as MTFR fire chief; Chief Powell has served as interim chief since August, when former Chief Colin Altman retired.

Since Chief Powell brought the proposed resolution before the trustees, it has been the leading topic of discussion at a number of regular and special meetings held by trustees.

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Monday night’s decision follows the hiring of consultant Fred Kauser, who was contracted by the Township on May 10 to help trustees make a decision on the resolution after they declared they were at an “impasse.” Concerns about the resolution voiced by trustees included the necessity of retaining firefighters by increasing the number of full-time, pensioned positions available weighed against the additional cost more pensions would require.

Just one week after being hired, Kauser — who, in addition to a long career as a firefighter and fire chief, holds a Ph.D. in workforce development and education, and who has consulted with other fire agencies in Ohio — delivered his initial report to the trustees at a Friday, May 17, special meeting.

Kauser said he had put in about 40 hours of research that week to assess the financial viability of moving ahead with the proposed resolution. Amid assessing the overall processes and culture of MTFR — which he will continue to evaluate and offer guidance on over the next few weeks — Kauser said he looked into the fire station’s current staffing models and the Township’s finances.

He noted that MTFR has been working “aggressively” for a decade, as volunteers to the station have waned, toward meeting a recommended target of three full-time firefighter/EMT positions — one for each shift. At the same time, Kauser said MTFR has been “very wise” to offer medical benefits and paid time off to its part-time employees, while maintaining “excellent financial health” within the agency.

“It looks like a fully career, fully professionalized organization … and you did it on essentially half the millage [of larger municipalities],” Kauser said.

He went on to report that, if trustees were to approve the resolution for three additional full-time, pensioned positions, the annual pay for those positions would not immediately change; any immediate additional cost would come from the pensions, which would require the Township to contribute 24% of the salary for each position to the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, rather than the 6.2% it contributes to Social Security. This 17.8% increase would mean an additional cost of about $27,000 annually for the Township.

However, Kauser added, the Township currently pays about $20,000 in overtime annually to employees filling what would otherwise be full-time positions, noting that full-time staff must meet a higher baseline of hours than part-time staff before they enter overtime pay. Staffing those shifts with full-time positions, Kauser said, would effectively eliminate that additional $20,000 each year — a likelihood that Chief Powell alluded to in early April when he first presented the proposed resolution. Kauser also noted that staffing shifts with three additional full-time positions would reduce the overall part-time hours needed to cover those shifts.

Before trustees unanimously approved the resolution during the May 20 meeting — at which seven firefighter/EMTs were present to hear the vote — Trustee Marilan Moir said Kauser’s assessment made it clear that approving the additional pensions would essentially be “cost-neutral” for the Township when considering both staffing hours and overtime. At the same time, she said trustees had considered the “cultural” benefits to MTFR staff of approving the resolution.

Trustee Chris Mucher added: “I have supported the idea for a year-plus now.”

After approving the resolution, the trustees also approved a resolution to promote current MTFR employees Cassady Brewer and Gavin VanMeter to two of the three newly created full-time positions, with the stipulation that both receive paramedic training within two years; the trustees noted that they would approve the third promotion in the future, following guidance from Chief Powell.

Trustees also approved a resolution to offer Fred Kauser a “temporary position” with MTFR to continue to consult on personnel matters.

In other Township business:

• YS Chamber of Commerce Vice Chair Ryan Carpe spoke before the trustees on behalf of the Chamber, requesting that the Township formalize an informal arrangement it has made with the Chamber for the semiannual Street Fair for several years. Carpe said MTFR has provided services for Street Fair events at a discounted rate, and noted that the Chamber had put forth a request that the Township formally donate $5,000 of “in-kind” services annually to the event, billing the Chamber for any costs beyond that.

Trustees discussed the request briefly, but ultimately decided to wait to vote on the request until its next meeting Monday, June 3, in order to give Chief Powell time to assess what the total cost for providing services would be for the two Street Fair events.

However, the trustees did vote to donate $1,000 to this year’s Chamber-run Fourth of July fireworks event, doubling its typical annual contribution of $500.

The next meeting of the Miami Township Trustees will be Monday, June 3, beginning at 5 p.m. in the MTFR community meeting room.


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