Two weeks after resuming medical first-responder service, Nashville’s fire chief announced that the all-volunteer station is in trouble again.
The Brown County (Nashville) Volunteer Fire Department lost one of its active volunteers due to “personal issues” and lack of time to commit, Chief Nick Kelp told the council June 15. That takes the number of firefighters down to seven.
Firefighters also have found problems with equipment that will be expensive to fix, he said. They include an aerial truck that the former chief, Kelp’s father, “Dak” Kelp, worked with the town council to purchase in December 2015. Nick Kelp called that truck “our money pit” and mentioned a leaking head gasket, a leaking pump, a damaged ladder guard because of an “incident” around Memorial Day and a damaged motor which powers a nozzle.
“All of these are very expensive fixes, and the fire department doesn’t have any money,” he said.
“The reason I’m unhappy is that everyone I’ve turned to is wanting us to do 100 percent of the work and nobody’s willing to help us.”
He echoed a concern his father raised numerous times over the past few years before he retired: Without more support for the department’s finances and staffing, “we’re realistically looking at shutting the doors in the next couple years, maybe sooner,” Nick Kelp said.
On June 1, the volunteer department started responding to medical emergency calls alongside Columbus Regional Hospital EMS workers, who are paid through a contract with the county. Volunteers stopped going on those runs a little over a year ago because of lack of help.
Nick Kelp said restarting that service was a decision his fellow volunteers made through a vote, and even though trying to take on medical runs is another burden on a small, unpaid staff, it’s part of a volunteer firefighter’s job.
On the funding front, Nick Kelp said he’d talked informally with some county commissioners about making a fire territory for Nashville and Washington Township — which would require the approval of county, town and township leaders — but nobody has “made any moves” yet, and he doesn’t know how much time they have left.
“It’s killing them,” he said about his remaining volunteers.
“I have seven people trying to do the job of 24 and with no incentive to doing it except that they love it.”
The town council could offer no immediate solutions to the funding problem to fix equipment. The town gets cumulative fund money from a Nashville income tax, but that fund only has about $1,000 in it after a truck and some hoses were bought, Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young said.
Last month, the Washington Township Advisory Board approved a 3-cent-per-$100 tax increase on township residents to help pay for equipment. It starts in 2018.
Trustee Brandon Magner estimated it would raise about $47,000 more per year for the fire department — enough to cover a $240,000 balance to buy a new fire truck. Its total cost will be about $440,000. That new truck will not replace the ladder truck; it’s a combination firefighting and rescue truck able to maneuver where a larger vehicle can’t.