Home City Fire chief Bob Rymer talks AFD funding with Student Senate

Fire chief Bob Rymer talks AFD funding with Student Senate

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Athens Fire Department (AFD) Chief Bob Rymer presented to Student Senate on Wednesday evening about the department’s need of financing and its functions.

AFD’s revenue comes from the income and property taxes in Athens city, in addition to funding from the local government and Ohio U.

In 2016 the income tax rate in Athens was increased by 0.2% to make it 1.85%. The increase did not generate funding as projected, so another potential increase could be a solution since Athens currently has a lower income tax rate compared to other college towns in Ohio, he said. This was verified by RITA.

He also suggested that Ohio U students should pay a $50 fee each semester to help finance the department’s stations, a proposal he also made to the body last year.

“I do not want to ask for any type of funding if I can not give you something for it,” Rymer told the body after giving his suggestions for possible revenue solutions.

AFD could increase its staff and respond to emergencies quicker if it received more money, he said.

AFD has two fire stations with 23 employees between them, with a total of 21 firefighters, one chief and a part-time secretary. AFD is the only fire department that serves both Athens city and Ohio U.

The department responded to approximately 1,100 calls this past year, and 41% of those runs were to Ohio U, according to Rymer.

To reduce the number of calls AFD receives, it eliminated its ambulance service. Now, the number of calls has reached the same number they were at before the cut of the ambulance service, and the department will not be able to make more service cuts to help reduce the calls, Rymer said.

Athens’ average of reported cooking-related fires is 54% — 13% higher than the national average — due to lack of fire prevention practices, Rymer said.

The Senate also passed legislation to support Ohio House of Representatives Bill 351, which would help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault terminate their housing leases to help reduce financial constraints that could arise when trying to move on from an incident.

A letter of support will be sent to various members of the Ohio General Assembly, including Speaker of the House Larry Householder, to encourage further action on the proposed legislation.

Editor’s Note: In a statement after the meeting, Rymer corrected himself by saying the city, not the department, eliminated the ambulance service. Also, a previous version of this story stated Ohio U pays an impact fee. That’s incorrect, as the state pays that fee, not the university.

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