August 2, 2014

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Fire district still in running for grant

NORTH RIDGEVILLE – With six days left to vote, a proposed regional fire district for seven Lorain and Cuyahoga county communities including North Ridgeville is in fourth place among nine projects in the running for $300,000 in grant money.

Saturday, the Westshore Regional Fire District Project was in fourth place. More than 8,300 ballots have been cast so far by mail, by phone and online, according to Chris Thompson of the Fund for Our Economic Future, a collaboration of 100-plus foundations, organizations and philanthropists working to strengthen Northeast Ohio’s ability to compete economically by improving government efficiency via a program known as EfficientGovNow. Specific vote totals are not being released while balloting continues, Thompson said.

Voting for the grant money from EfficientGovNow is open only to residents of Northeast Ohio. They can vote by going online at www.EfficientGovNow.org, by calling (877) 771-5206, or by mailing in ballots available at libraries across the region. Residents may vote once.

“We check out anything suspicious,” Thompson said. “We take steps to assure voting is appropriate.”

The fire district proposal involves North Ridgeville, Fairview Park, Bay Village, Westlake, Rocky River, Lakewood and North Olmsted.

“We’re looking to better serve our residents or save money, or both,” North Ridgeville Mayor David Gillock said Saturday.

Officials in the seven cities have hired a consulting firm to do a study to help them plan for possible regionalization of fire services.

“Recommendations could range from sharing of training programs and personnel to back-up fire engines to a full regional fire district,” Gillock said.

A fire district study is pegged to cost $170,000, which will be split among the seven cities considering the idea.

“All of the mayors and fire chiefs are in support of this,” Gillock said.

Some of the communities already share fire and ambulance services via mutual aid, as well as a common dispatching service known as West Com.

The three top vote-getters will each get a maximum $100,000 in grant money to pay for studies or other action. Even if grant money doesn’t come, the fire study will still be done.

“We’re way down the road on this,” Gillock said. “This (EfficientGovNow program) came along at an opportune time. It made sense to apply.”

A proposed school bus, heavy equipment and maintenance operation between the city of Oberlin, the Oberlin City Schools and New Russia Township is in sixth place among the nine finalists.

“We wanted communities to look beyond traditional boundaries,” Thompson said. “Instead of trying to fix everything ourselves, we want them to see who they can partner with.”

The fire district proposal is seeing strong voter turnout.

“It’s beginning to build momentum, but vote totals keep changing. A strong showing by any of the nine in this last week could turn things around,” Thompson said.

Having the public weigh in on deserving projects is a worthwhile way of increasing public awareness of collaborative efforts, Thompson said. “Ultimately, the type of government we have is up to all of us.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.