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Middletown council OKs restructuring of police leadership, purchase of fire ladder truck

Posted at 8:09 AM, Jun 18, 2021

Middletown’s police and fire chiefs made presentations during Tuesday night’s city council meeting. One proposal will save taxpayers about $74,000 a year and the other will cost $1.2 million.

Police Chief David Birk told council he wants to restructure the department’s leadership team by eliminating one major position, converting two of the major positions into lieutenants and adding a traffic officer.

Fire Chief Paul Lolli said the department needs to purchase a Sutphen SPH 100 aerial platform ladder because the only ladder truck is 19 years old and frequently requires repairs that causes the city to request mutual aid.

Both emergency ordinances were unanimously passed by city council.

Birk said three of the department’s majors are either nearing retirement or considering leaving the department.

Scott Reeve, a 35-year veteran on the force, is set to retire in September; Leanne Hood, who has worked in Middletown for 29 years, is eligible to retire and Andy Warrick, who has 20 years experience, may leave the department for another job, Birk told council.

The new organizational chart will have the police chief, deputy police chief, two lieutenants and 10 sergeants serving as the command staff, according to a staff report.

Eliminating the position of the deputy chief in detectives and replacing it with a patrol/traffic officer on the street will save approximately $50,000 yearly and reducing two of the majors positions with lieutenants will save the police budget about $24,000 every year.

Birk said he requested emergency legislation so the department can begin the testing process for patrol officers, sergeants and lieutenants.

City Manager Jim Palenick told council if the Sutphen SPH 100 aerial platform ladder was ordered before July 1 the city would save 3-4%. Lolli said the truck was ordered Wednesday and the city saved $51,000.

Lolli said it will take about 14 to 18 months for the truck to be built.

The city bought a used ladder truck from Green Twp. in Ohio in 2013 for $360,000 with an additional $25,000 in detail work to match the others in the division. Lolli called that “a once-in-a-lifetime deal” and said he’s been unable to find a used ladder truck for sale.

He said the city has spent about $100,000 the last several years repairing the ladder truck and it’s unavailable until Friday due to repairs to its hydraulic jacks. He said Middletown has relied on mutual aid from Monroe and Franklin, but that means increased response times.

Once a new ladder truck arrives, the used one will be placed in reserves where it will be used for another five years, Lolli said.

The ladder truck is important, Lolli said, because it provides a high volume of water to structures that are higher than one story and is used during operations at downtown buildings, the city’s two hospitals and at Cleveland Cliffs, formerly AK Steel.