Two Kenton Fire Departments Expected to Merge
The Piner-Fiskburg Fire District is expected to merge with the Kenton Fire District.
A public hearing was held last week at the Kenton County Courthouse in Independence.
About a dozen residents attended the meeting, along with fire department members and board members, and Kenton County officials.
Both departments signed a merger resolution in early June. The public hearing was held to answer any lingering questions.
Following the meeting, Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann said he would sign the agreement and send it to state officials for approval.
The Kenton Fire District lost its ambulance license last year when it didn't have enough members to staff it around the clock. A meeting was held last year to find a solution. The Kenton County Fiscal Court agreed to assist, but is unable to contribute financially due to state law.
Piner-Fiskburg and Ryland Fire Districts each submitted merger proposals to Kenton Fire District. Ryland's proposal was rejected.
The boards of Piner-Fiskburg and Kenton signed the merger petition on June 3.
Some residents expressed concern, particularly about response times from the Piner firehouse to residents who live north of Kenton Station Road. Chief Jason Schleue said estimated times of 12 to 15 minutes were not accurate. An ambulance would be able to respond more quickly than that, he said.
Additionally, the Piner-Fiskburg Fire Department is in the process of upgrading from Basic Life Support to Advanced Life Support.
"We will be looking to increase our staff, also," said Chief Schleue. "We currently have three full-time people, besides me, and a part-time staff. We will probably promote some of our part-time people to full-time."
Residents also asked about the future of the Kenton Fire District building. Schleue said everything would stay the same for now until the Piner-Fiskburg Fire Board could evaluate. Kenton's ambulance and fire truck aren't needed, Schleue said, so they could be sold.
The firehouse would likely not be sold, he said.
The make-up of the merged board is still in question. Each board has seven members.
Judge Knochelmann praised the two departments for working out the merger plan, and he commented that the residents in both districts would benefit from the ALS service, so it looked like a win for everyone. He appreciated the effort of working the merger out.
"That, by the way, is not an easy task," said Knochelmann. "I'd like to say a special vote of thanks to both boards, their chairs, and the fire chiefs."
He also said that this type of merger was beginning to happen all over the state.
Chief Schleue said that because operation costs keep going up, and the income from the taxes staying the same, small districts are finding themselves considering the option of merging with other districts to create a bigger district. He explained that taxes are tapped, and fire districts can't raise their tax rates, so the future for small districts looks bleak.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor