Mutual aid agreement for service departments introduced to Council

by Bob Gaetjens | Editor Published:

Streetsboro -- City Council was presented a draft of a possible mutual aid agreement Jan. 14, which Mayor Glenn Broska would like to establish with neighboring communities concerning their service departments

Broska has said that microbursts, tornadoes, floods and utility problems like gas leaks may demand a stronger response than an individual community can muster. In those cases, municipalities subject to the agreement would respond by offering equipment and manpower.

As discussed in meetings of a regional coalition of about 10 to 12 area municipalities, Kent, Stow, Hudson, Aurora, Tallmadge, Mantua, Shalersville, Garrettsville, Ravenna, Twinsburg and Sugar Bush Knolls may also participate in the agreement.

Communities that have signed legislation authorizing a mutual aid agreement include Kent, Stow and Ravenna, according to Ravenna Public Service Director Kelly Engelhart. However, the agreements differ in how they're set up, she said. She's heading a subcommittee of the regional coalition of mayors and service directors which aims to help the would-be participants get on the same page, legislatively, so all the local laws are consistent by the end of 2013.

City Council member Chuck Kocisko said the legislative body seems to be in favor of the agreement.

"I like the idea of cities getting involved with one another because one can help another," he said. "I think it's a good idea, and I'm in favor of it."

City Council member Julie Field concurred.

"I think it's going to prove helpful and beneficial not only to our community but to the surrounding communities," she said. "I think it's a great idea, and I really don't have any concerns about it."

Broska said the city would track spending associated with emergency responses by the service department to other cities.

"We will watch, as everybody else will, the budgetary impact," he said. "We have a responsibility to our taxpayers first."

In cases of natural disasters or emergencies, he said it's particularly important to track expenses because they may be reimbursable by the federal government.

In cases which are not natural disasters, a train derailment with a serious hazardous material spill, for example, the agency or company liable for damages would have to cover the cost of clean up, he said.

According to the draft of the agreement, Streetsboro workers would "remain employees or agents of the respective political subdivisions, including for purposes of tort liability and immunity from tort liability."

All "pension, death benefits, workers' compensation and other benefits" afforded to Streetsboro employees would be covered by Streetsboro if employees are working in other municipalities, as well, according to the draft of the agreement.

While Streetsboro workers are responding to an emergency elsewhere, for liability purposes, it will be as if workers are working for Streetsboro, said Broska.

The same would apply to employees of other cities responding to an service department emergency in Streetsboro.

Broska said the structure of agreement is very similar to mutual aid agreements among fire and police departments.

Because of the unpredictability of emergencies, he can't estimate how much money could be saved through the agreement.

Before long, he said the agreement should be fully developed. The regional coalition of mayors and service directors set goal of Dec. 31 to have all communities on board with the mutual aid agreement.

"The indicated[at the regional meeting Jan. 10]was  that it is not going to be a problem getting this through," he said.

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