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Area dilemma is true emergency

Warren City Council members made the right decision in expanding a pilot agreement to staff the Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department with two Warren firefighters from three days a week to five.

No one should think for one second that our city or county is done discussing emergency response. Those talks have really just begun, and Warren will play an integral role in how the county’s emergency response system functions — and that means the concerns raised recently by Councilman John Wortman about the Pleasant Township agreement could potentially have to be dealt with on a larger scale.

Having Warren firefighters stationed in Pleasant, a mere stone’s throw away from Warren, makes sense if the town is paying for the firefighters to be there. Expanding the Pleasant agreement from three to five days makes sense financially, operationally and gives the city additional information about how responding outside the city can work on a full-time basis.

In that light, Wortman’s questions about decreased city staffing inside Warren are outweighed by the benefits the city gets in guaranteed payment for responding to calls outside of Warren.

What happens if more surrounding volunteer fire departments find themselves in Pleasant’s situation? How does the county deal with volunteer fire departments dropping between 50% and 70% of their calls? Does Warren play a role in backstopping fire departments surrounding the city to guarantee emergency response to those who need it? What does that mean for city staffing?

In that situation, Wortman’s questions about the city being understaffed to handle calls inside Warren suddenly become a valid issue that needs to be considered as part of the county’s emergency response plans.

Warren County’s emergency medical services crisis didn’t happen overnight, and a solution won’t be created overnight either. But if the talks between Warren and Pleasant have taught us anything, it is that a solution will be delayed if the parties continue meeting separately lobbing insults from their respective boardrooms.

County Commissioner Ben Kafferlin is trying to lead a process to solve this mess — and it’s incumbent on everyone to be at the table in order to do so.

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