Aug. 27--LIBERTY -- The township has closed one of its two fire stations because of a projected deficit in the fire department's operating costs for next year.
The township's station on Belmont Avenue has been closed for about a month, said Trustee Jodi Stoyak and township Administrator Pat Ungaro. They said the closure is likely only temporary, and the station could very well be open again in January.
"This is something that's been done a half a dozen times over 20 years," Ungaro said.
The closing did not need a formal vote or resolution at a trustee meeting, said township attorney Mark Finamore.
The township discussed it with the fire department's union before deciding on whether to do it, they said.
It affects about 40 to 50 residences in the northern part of the township, they said. Finamore added that the remaining station on Logan Way is actually closer to Belmont Avenue businesses.
The reason for the closing is a projected $233,000 deficit in the department's operating costs, which were driven up by overtime, Finamore said.
"We're trying to reduce the projected deficit by doing three things -- close the fire station, reduce overtime, and if a person retires, they may delay replacing that person until they have the money," Finamore said.
"The union and the fire chief are cooperating to reduce overtime expenses while maintaining adequate services," he said.
Under the union contract, the fire department can't use part-time firefighters until all full-time firefighters have been offered overtime.
The department never replaced a firefighter who moved up after Gus Birch became chief when Michael Durkin recently retired, and it will not immediately replace an inspector who will be retiring soon, Ungaro said.
"It's proactive," Ungaro added. "We don't want to lay anybody off in January."
All the department's equipment is now being operated out of the Logan Way station.
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