NEW LEXINGTON — The way the villages and overall county have been protected has changed in the past decade because of advancements in all of the different departments and offices.

These are just a few changes from some law enforcement and first responders and where those who protect Perry County, see their respective offices and departments in the next decade.

Through no fault of their own some departments were not able to respond in time due to the recent uncertainties that have hit the county and state.

Corning Volunteer Fire Department and EMS

Corning Fire Chief Travis Donahue has only held the position since this January but he already has plans on how he wants to grow the department.

IDonahue said it takes different training to do the job today than it did 10 years ago but the job at its core is the same.

One thing he has noticed change is there are more dangerous products like chemical compounds are catching fire. He added that fires are getting hotter.

To combat such a dangerous job, the Corning Fire Department and departments everywhere are putting more focus on defeating firefighter cancer.

As the job becomes more time consuming, departments are finding it difficult to recruit volunteer help. Donahue said staffing has fluctuated in the department a bit but for the most part, it has stayed about the same.

To get more interest in joining, Donahue wants to implement a training program.

Fire departments will normally help pay for the first part of fire training but he wants to go further by supporting their level 2 fire training if they agree to work for the department for a certain amount of time.

He also wants to do the same on the EMS. Donahue said he may not be able to fund a lot of people through their training but may be able to get a couple through using the department’s training budget.

To entice people to stay, he wants to become a paid department. Since January, the department has hired three new members. Two of them work on both fire and EMS.

To go along with a growing crew, He would like to get a whole new fleet of fire trucks. Donahue knows this will take some time so in the next five years, he would like to get at least one new pumper truck through a FEMA grant.

Currently the department has a tanker, pumper and brush truck along with an ambulance.

This year Corning Fire will be getting some new turnout gear such as fire coats and pants and also bottles for their air packs thanks to a HAPCAP grant.

Donahue concluded saying he would like to see anyone interested in becoming a firefighter to come and give it a shot.

Crooksville Fire Department and EMS

In July 2011, the Crooksville EMS went from volunteer to paid. A process that took about two years.

Today, the Crooksville Fire Department is still volunteer but Chief Ralph Hill hopes in the next five years to have paid fire as well.

To go along with pay, EMS staffing went up as well. The increase is to help with an increase in calls due to people calling for even simple issues they're facing. Hill also feels that the people in the area are getting older and are in need of more assistance.

With volunteer and part-time paid EMS there are currently 44 people on staff. Hill plans to add more staff in the next five years.

Hill too has noticed a big push to limit firefighters’ contact with carcinogens. This has led to more particulate filters for the first responders to prevent from inhaling smoke and purchasing more protective equipment such as Nomex hoods and proper exhaust systems for the fire department.

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) standards departments follow have become more demanding and to follow all of them properly requires an excess in fire department funding.

This summer, the department is planning on breaking ground on a fire house. It will be on Walnut Street near state Route 93.The expected cost is going to be around $1.5 million according to

The new station will help them be more NFPA compliant. Hill said the department and other officials have been working on finding land to build on for the last three years.

They will have fairly new vehicles to go into the new station. In the last few years, Crooksville Fire has purchased a new rescue engine, two new squad trucks and a boat. Hill would like to replace their oldest engine and brush truck within the next five years.

Crooksville Police Department

Chief Rodney Walters said Crooksville PD has gone the opposite way in terms of staffing. 10 years ago, there was more staffing, going from four full-time, one part-time and 20 auxiliary to now having three full-time and five auxiliary.

State and federal grants to support more officers has dried up leading to a decrease in staffing and Walters does not see this funding coming back soon.

What he does see is a possible merger of police departments within other villages in the county. He is not opposed to it because it is easier to fund something big than a small department.

It has been one of Walters’ goals to attract more women and minority officers but it has been difficult because he cannot always offer the desired hourly pay. Around November of last year, the department was able to raise their hourly wage to $14 an hour.

On a positive note, the department has purchased a Ford Taurus in 2016 and a new 2020 Ford Explorer this year.

In the next five years, Walters would like to have full staff on full time and auxiliary roster. He plans on retiring next april so his job is to get all of the technology updated for the next person.

One of the upgrades he would like to accomplish is getting ticket writing machines online this year. It works by swiping a driver's license and it prints the tickets out, which saves a half an hour on traffic stops.

Walters’ goal is to advance the department while still holding on to its history. One way he has done that is by keeping a 1969 Plymouth Fury on their fleet.

Hopewell Township Fire Department

In 2010, the Hopewell Township Fire Department went from volunteer to part-time. A few years ago that part-time changed to having two people there 24 hours a day, which cut their response time down to about 12 minutes to get to the furthest point from the station.

Fire Lt. Richard Maxwell added that the department has added to their brush fire equipment while acquiring a utv and a new truck to pull utv.

They now also have six thermal imagers, which is a camera that can be used to go into house fires to detect if any victims are inside. Another addition are the beds at the station and the locker room with showers to accommodate for the firefighters who stay overnight.

Within the next few years Maxwell said the department will be replacing their rescue engine and squad vehicles.

They would also possibly like to add more staffing. Within the next 10 years, there may be an increase of one person.

Junction City Fire Department

In 2012, the Junction City Fire Department purchased a new ambulance and last year, the department purchased a new tanker truck

Junction City Fire chief John Mason said the volunteer aspect is slowly decreasing because of the economy, which is forcing more people to have full-time jobs, leaving them with little time to volunteer at places like fire stations. Currently, 20 people are volunteering for the fire department.

With budget constraints, he sees it being a bit more difficult to purchase more vehicles in the near future but more truck replacements is something he would like to see in the next 10 years.

What the department has been able to update are the cardiac monitors that allow them to get information about a patient to the hospital before they arrive.

The first responders can also now be alerted on cell phones by dispatch when emergencies are happening.

Mason wants to continue updating equipment to keep all firefighters safe while on the job. Currently, he is looking at acquiring another cardiac monitor and CPR assist devices to help with cardiac arrest calls.

Soon the department will be replacing a medic van and constructing a storage garage after receiving a grant to help purchase gear aimed toward preventing firefighters from getting cancer.

They will be searching for more grants such as equipment grants from the state fire marshal and ODNR, but they can be competitive.

Mason commented on the increase in how many hours of training are required to become an emergency medical responder or firefighter.

A 36 hour course is required to become a volunteer firefighter. To become a level one firefighter, it requires a 120-hour course and a level two requires 240 hours.

He said for an emergency medical responder, it takes 40 hours of training and can take up to a year and a half of training to become a paramedic.

Mason believes it has become more difficult to become a firefighter but the skilled service members that work there have made the department what it is today.

New Lexington Police Department

When New Lexington Police Chief Scott Ervin looks back to 2010, he remembers the main concern being the drug epidemic.

The department has been trying to handle the drug problem by building a strong relationship with drug task forces around the area.

To continue fighting the issue in the next five years, he would like to reach out to housing groups to try and develop better relationships that he feels are troubled areas.

He also plans to get officers into smaller communities more frequently to make sure they have a presence there and the public knows that someone is there to help.

Irvin is proud of the relationship the department has had with the schools in the last 10 years, which has recently led to creating two school resource officer positions.

The New Lexington Police Department like many departments across the country have had to adapt to using MARCS Radio Systems in the last couple years. These radios have helped with the slight increase in calls due to more basic theft calls. But Irvin sees it as citizens are calling and resolving issues quicker leading to people calling them more.

In the near future, Irvin would like to hire some needed part-time workers to help improve response times.

He also plans to get vehicles into a rotation so the department does not have to go out and purchase multiple vehicles at once.

Irvin may not be there in 10 years if retirement comes before then, so his goal is to leave the department better than he found it.

Perry County Sheriff’s Office

Perry County Sheriff Lt. Doug Gill said in the last five years, the office has put the tablets in all sheriff vehicles to do reports on the scene.

The office is currently leasing six new vehicles. Each vehicle to purchase would have cost around $40,000. Currently have 26 vehicles.

A few years ago, all deputies received new vests that were 75 percent funded through the Bureau of Workers Compensation. The type of vest purchased is known as an under vest.

Gill would like to see more technology that makes the job safer for the deputies. Specifically, he would like to have the technology that allows dispatchers to track where deputy vehicles are located at any given time.

A big goal for the PCSO is getting a jail and being self-sufficient, so deputies do not have to drive all over the state just for one prisoner.

Gill remarked that the location would have to be easy for everyone to get to and should not be out in the middle of nowhere where resources are scarce.

Shawnee Volunteer Fire Department

Shawnee FIre Chief John Arkley began to utilize thermal imaging in the last 10 years.

Their fire fleet has not been updated in the last 10 years. Arkley remarked that the average age of their vehicle is 18-years-old.

To get more with the times, the department has applied for two grants that will hopefully replace all their equipment such as helmets, coats, boots and breathing apparatuses and a new truck. The grant for the equipment will give the department about $110,000 and the grant for a new vehicle would be $400,000

There are 16 volunteer firefighters on staff and they cover 22 square miles. In the last year, the department has seen an influx of younger members.

Arkley would like to see staff numbers increase because they are receiving more calls but he said the village is shrinking so it may be difficult to find interested participants.

The calls increased for Shawnee Fire because there have been more medical type calls and they have been more involved in assisting other departments who lack resources themselves.

Running the department has become a bit more difficult as requirements and job duties increase. But Arkley is hopeful that the two grants they recently applied for will be approved and with possibly other grant opportunities in the next couple years, the future for the Shawnee Fire Department could be promising.

Thorn Township Fire Department and EMS

Thorn Fire Chief Jeremy Weekly has noticed that their run volume has increased in the past decade because the amount of people in the area is increasing.

In 2010, the department started working toward getting all of the information gathered to add part-time staffing. By 2011, two people worked Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This has since increased to include nights and weekends and eventually had to add a third person. As of January of 2020, four people are working around the clock and the chief’s position has gone from volunteer to paid.

Also in 2010, the department has gone from operating out of three smaller buildings to having one location thanks to a new fire station.

Weekly is currently focused on getting the fire renewal levy for next year approved, which will help keep the four people working around the clock in their positions.

Right now, all the people are paid part-time but he would like to get a full-time person in there to help continue meeting the public’s needs.

Weekly has seen the community getting younger families and watched the department go from receiving about 500 calls to over 700 calls a year. He said it has been about a 22 percent increase in call volume.

Recently Thorn Fire purchased a new rescue fire truck. They really rely on one truck to do several jobs due to the lack of staffing to get several trucks to the scene of an incident at once.

To accommodate those working long shifts, the firehouse turned a conference and workout room into an area for bunk spaces for the workers to sleep.

Weekly would like to see an administrative wing of the department so the public can come into a lobby area but his primary goal is to continue providing the fastest service they can for citizens of Thornville.

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