Fire district board signs off on events coverage

By Joshua Keeran -

NORTH LEWISBURG – The Northeast Champaign County Fire District Board on June 27 agreed to provide staff for on-site coverage during various community events taking July through October.

Fire Chief Mike Penhorwood presented the board with a list of upcoming meetings and hose testings his department will be taking part in as well as events that have requested fire and/or EMS coverage.

The events seeking fire and/or medical personnel to be on hand in case of an emergency include the local fireworks show scheduled for July 9 at the North Lewisburg Community Park, the Champaign County Fair on Aug. 6, and six Triad High School home football games scheduled for Aug. 12, Aug. 26, Sept. 9, Sept. 23, Oct. 7 and Oct. 21.

Before voting on the matter, board member (Woodstock) Bradley Herron expressed his concerns with liability issues that could arise by having more than the regular on-duty personnel on hand for events like the fireworks show, which Penhorwood said would require eight to 10 district personnel for approximately four hours.

“If we need somebody working, that’s one thing,” Herron said. “If we don’t need them working, there are liabilities we are putting out there that we don’t necessarily need to have. I’m not sure we receive taxpayer dollars to provide fireworks.

“If we are going to have to staff it with eight people when they have fireworks, maybe we should be getting compensated for that by the group that is putting on the fireworks,” he added.

In response to Herron’s concerns, Penhorwood responded, “If I don’t sign the paper, there are no fireworks. It’s required that the fire department be there.”

Following additional discussions on the matter, the board agreed to contact its insurance company to inquire about its liability insurance when it comes to event coverage. In the meantime, a motion was passed allowing Penhorwood to staff the fireworks show with 10 district personnel from 8 p.m. to midnight on July 9, the Champaign County Fair with up to five employees from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Aug. 6, and the six Triad High School home football games with two additional employees on top of the two regular on-duty personnel.

Bed bug prevention

Interim Operations Manager Sarah Page addressed concerns over the possibility of district employees being exposed to bed bugs when treating patients inside their residences.

“We’ve been contacted a couple times throughout this year for a particular area in the district for bed bugs – twice by the hospital and this last time by the sheriff’s department,” she said.

Currently, the district’s decontamination policy involves personnel spraying with 91 percent rubbing alcohol after possible contact with bed bugs, which is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for use on a person, Page said. She added that since the district wasn’t notified in time to take precautions prior to entering the infected residence, an exterminator was called to look for any infestation in the bay and living quarters at the NECCFD headquarters inside the North Lewisburg municipal building. No bed bugs were found, the exterminator reported.

Fire and EMS departments in nearby counties, however, haven’t been as fortunate and are battling infestations, Page said.

In an attempt to be proactive, Page informed the board she received a quote from a local exterminator in the amount of $80 a month to treat the municipal building. For an additional charge, the exterminator offers a spray that could be used to decontaminate the district’s emergency vehicles.

“They would treat this entire building … for any and all types of bugs, and they would do monthly inspections,” she said.

Following discussions on whether to enter into an agreement with an exterminator, the board agreed more information was needed prior to voting on the matter.

“I’m not a fan of spraying anything inside of this building to be honest with you,” said board member (North Lewisburg) Andy Yoder, who works in the municipal building daily as the administrator for the village of North Lewisburg. “If the fire department decides to spray solely the bay area and their living quarters, so be it.”

In other business:

•The NECCFD’s 2017 tax budget, which shows an estimated total revenue of $427,520 in the General Fund for next fiscal year, was approved by the board.

•The district’s new EMS reporting software through ESO Solutions Inc. is up and running, Page said.

“We are not seeing any problems,” she said.

To use the software in the field, Page said, the district is testing Verizon’s mobile wifi hotspot service for $39 a month.

While testing the hotspot equipment and service, Page informed the board, a few dead spots were discovered – one on Mingo-Lewisburg Road and one near Home Town Pizza in Cable.

“(The hotspot service) is doing OK, so we will see,” she said.

•The board approved $2,500 in additional appropriations to cover employment ads in newspapers. To date, the district has spent $1,427 on employment ads as it continues to recruit individuals to fill permanent part-time as well as part-time positions.

•Page announced the district’s full-time position has been filled by Firefighter/Paramedic Josh Furlong, scheduled to work his first shift on July 6.

•The board passed a motion agreeing to split the cost of a new garage door opener for one of the bay doors with the village of North Lewisburg. Each entity will pay $207.50.

•Interviews were expected to be held this week for the district’s director position.

By Joshua Keeran

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.