Summit County communities to share service department resources in emergencies
Summit County communities can still have their streets plowed, even if their entire service departments are sick or quarantined.
The Summit County Service Department Response Network Mutual Aid Agreement gives participating communities access to a pool of licensed, part-time county employees in case of emergencies.
County spokesperson Greta Johnson said that during the large snow storm in November, one community had no snow removal because most of their department members were on COVID-related absences.
"It became a problem, so we looked at how we might be able to support communities," Johnson said.
The service department mutual agreement operates similarly to those for safety forces.
Under the new agreement, participants can submit a request for aid, and other communities would then determine if they have resources available. Available resources, which may be people or equipment, would be dispatched to the community in need, and the providing community would then send a bill for services.
Johnson said that all 31 communities in the county have been made aware of the program and are in various stages of reviewing, signing and submitting legislation to participate.
Tallmadge signed legislation on Jan. 28, and Johnson said that Cuyahoga Falls City Council would be reviewing it on Feb. 8. Legislation also is in front of Macedonia's council, and Mogadore, Norton and Fairlawn are in various stages of reviewing the proposal.
"I know there are other communities who are interested, but interested doesn't necessarily equate to participating," she said.
Although it's not a common conundrum for Macedonia, Mayor Nick Molnar said that the COVID-19 pandemic could compromise the city’s ability to keep the roads clear.
“We ran into an issue this year where half of our service staff was unavailable,” Molnar said. “We struggled to accommodate the needs associated with clearing snow city wide. This is not a common issue but COVID-19 could cause us to have more instances of the need.”
The county’s pooling program “provides a list of available, qualified plow drivers" a participating community could use if it needs additional help clearing snow, Molnar said.
“The county will maintain a list of workers that can be called upon in no particular order with legalities previously agreed upon — in other words, insurance, CDL, etc.,” Molnar said. “This will be on a first come, first serve basis.”
Molnar said he had approached county officials for assistance when the city had a shortage of service members.
“They jumped on the issue by devising a plan, with our law department weighing in,” Molnar said. “To my knowledge, many of the communities in the county have all agreed to come on board. The only cost to the program is paying the wages of the individuals working.”
Molnar said the workers would be paid hourly; a rate has not been set yet.
Molnar added that Macedonia “can also share resources between communities with existing employees.”
Summit County is hiring a host of part-time, seasonal employees who would be available for emergency situations, and Johnson said that individual communities "may get called, but they may never get called" to help.
Tallmadge City Council approved the agreement last month, with support from Public Service Director Michael Rorar.
"It's a good plan, and it makes sense," Rorar said. "I think it's worthwhile. You never know when a catastrophe will hit town, especially with COVID."
Councilman Dennis Loughry expressed concerns of equity, but Law Director Megan Raber assured him that the city could leave the agreement if that became an issue.
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