Home Campus Athens Fire Chief proposes $50 student fee for services

Athens Fire Chief proposes $50 student fee for services

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Chief Robert Rymer of the Athens Fire Department spoke before Student Senate on Wednesday to propose a $50 semesterly fire fee for all students.

Student Senate discussed a proposed fee for students to improve fire services and provide fire safety training for students at its meeting Wednesday night.

Senate began with a presentation from Athens Fire Chief Robert Rymer. He intended to gauge student approval of a proposed new fire department fee for all students.

Rymer said that the proposed student fire fee be $50 per semester for all students, down from $100 he originally proposed. Students currently do not pay a fire fee.

Rymer said that one reason the fire department is underfunded is because Athens has the lowest income tax of Ohio college towns with populations over 10,000. However, a student fee for fire safety would be a more appropriate way to fund the fire department than a tax hike, Rymer said, because Athens has previously raised property taxes to pay for the fire department.

Rymer said the Athens fire department is underfunded. He cited a 1997 study that said the fire department should have opened two more fire stations — in addition to the two they currently have — to fulfill Athens’ firefighting needs, which did not happen.

Rymer said the fire department has already spent $1 million in the past 15 years to renovate one of the fire stations they already have.

“I think this will be a little bit more regulated; the students would have a little bit more of a decision to say ‘hey, you know what? I think $50 is enough,’” Rymer said.

The fire department is also understaffed, with only four people being on-duty at any one time, two at each station, Rymer said.

“We show up at those times with four people and hope everyone else comes in off-duty — which is extremely dangerous if you know anything about firefighting,” Rymer said.

Rymer said 43 percent of all the fire runs are to Ohio University buildings, and if students don’t have a job or live off-campus, they don’t pay any taxes toward the fire department.

Rymer conducted an informal survey in 2017; 26 out of the 30 students he surveyed said they were in favor of a student fee to improve fire services.

Rymer also said he wants to use some of that money to teach fire safety skills to freshmen.

“I want to teach you how to use a fire extinguisher, and how to put out a fire. I want to teach you cooking safety and how to prevent cooking fires,” Rymer said.

Rymer’s ultimate goal is to decrease the fire department’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating. The ISO is a private corporation that ranks fire department performance from one to ten, with one being the best. If they can lower their ISO rating, Athenians’ insurance rates will go down.

In other business:

  • Student Senate enacted a resolution to appoint a new senator to the Student Trustee Selection Committee and to the Off-Campus Commission.
  • Student Senate enacted a resolution to update the judicial appeals process within the Judicial Panel.
  • Student Senate enacted a resolution to establish a lounge for veterans. This lounge would be available to veterans and their dependents, but not members of ROTC.
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