Sheffield Lake braces for budget cuts that could jeopardize jobs and fire safety

SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio - Sheffield Lake firefighters responded to and knocked down a house fire within nine minutes recently. But that response time could all change next year.

Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring said Tuesday he may have to eliminate his full-time paid fire department and switch to a volunteer department due to voter rejection of a one-half percent income tax increase.

Fire Chief Tim Card said he doesn't think a volunteer department will be able to respond as quickly to emergencies.

"If they're coming from home, responding from home to here then responding out, then more than likely not," he said.

It was the second time the Lorain County city of 9,300 had attempted to raise the income tax. Bring said the city has lost $500,000 a year because of state cuts. It's also losing revenue from the shutdown of two Internet cafes.

The mayor is meeting with city unions to see if they can take some concessions, but even with that, he said there is still equipment that needs to be purchased and maintained.

He said he may have to make cuts in the police department, too, including possibly laying off dispatchers or closing the jail.

"I feel terrible," he said. "I had one of the dispatchers sitting there crying the other day and I don't blame her. These are good people. These aren't people I want to get rid of. These are people who deserve to have their jobs."

The levy failed by just 18 votes. The fire union is working to gather community support to put another issue on the ballot.

In the meantime, Bring said the process of making cuts will probably start sometime next year and could take some time.

"Governor Kasich has done a nice job bringing businesses into Ohio," he said, "but the way he's bringing the businesses in, he's taking the money away from all the city and municipalities and he's hurting us badly."

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