Last updated: May 07. 2014 2:40PM - 263 Views
By Megan Kennedy mkennedy@civitasmedia.com

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From two separate fire districts, one joint-district will emerge in time.

The Villages of Gratis and West Elkton will be seeing some big, but efficient changes in the future, according to Gratis Mayor Kathy Lewis.

Recently, the village was told by consultant Bill Kramer, former Director of the University of Cincinnati Fire Science Education Department, it was in the best interest of the safety of the community, that the two villages, Gratis and West Elkton, merge fire districts.

Though the change won’t be official for the next few years, according to Mayor Lewis, the first step is “getting the groups working together,” she said.

Legalities surrounding the merge are another issue which needs further exploration.

Lewis said the West Elkton Fire Department seems to be “on board” with the change. West Elkton Mayor Bill Crawford said he has not yet read up on the subject.

Mayor Lewis said all parties involved have begun to see the issues which could be addressed better if there were a merged district, “to serve the community in the best way we can.”

“Everyone is on the same page,” she said.

The two existing buildings in each village will remain, however, they will be one entity. Which location will dispatch for each call will depend on where the location of the call is coming in. This will decrease response time, so crews will not be overlapping each other.

The districts will have a kickoff meeting in May, which Kramer will moderate.

Gratis Fire Department’s Fire Chief Paul Rabb retired from his position in late April, paving the way for current Police Chief Jeffrey King. Chief King will split his time between Police and Fire Divisions as chief of both operations.

King has “unbelievable credentials,” said Mayor Lewis. “He’s a good person to have in there … to move things forward.”

The Gratis Village Council is currently interviewing other firefighters to join the district, as well as inviting a few back, such as Andy Cooke and Joe Burgess, who left the department in 2012.

Lewis said an official merger wouldn’t occur for roughly two years. This will give the districts time to train together and learn how to best work with each other.

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