Firefighters to be laid off

City commission balances budget
Andy Ouriel
Feb 25, 2014


An eerie chill saturated the commission chambers inside City Hall on Monday as elected officials authorized substantial cuts to Sandusky’s fire operations.

City commissioners begrudgingly voted 6-0 to approve a $16.3 million everyday operating budget for 2014, which included eliminating four fulltime fire positions and closing a fire station for six months.

Watch the entire meeting in the player below

Before approving the budget that includes other cuts, commissioners faced a $1.1 million shortfall with expenses surpassing revenue.    

Municipal governments, such as Sandusky, must have a balanced budget.

The biggest reductions occurred in fire operations, where not enough revenue existed today to maintain all 53 full-time staffing positions.

At a glance
To help negate a $1.1 million shortfall, Sandusky city commissioners made various cuts to the fire department, including:
•Slashing full-time staffing levels from 53 today to 49 by May.
•Closing Fire Station No. 7 on Venice Road near Toft Dairy from May to October, prolonging response times for residents on Sandusky’s west side.
•Scaling back on overtime, training and taxpayer-funded physicals.

In 2011, fire commanders obtained a $1 million federal grant, ensuring 53 full-time employees remained on staff for about three years.

But during this time, city officials — for whatever reason — never stashed away funds to maintain these positions once the grant expired this past December. Enough funds remain to keep 53 full-time fire slots until May.

Commissioners ultimately decided to cut four of these positions to balance their budget.

Follow the money
The Register takes an in-depth look at Sandusky’s $16.3 million operating budget this week and tells readers where the money’s spent:
•Wednesday: Horticultural and greenhouse operations
•Thursday: Sandusky Transit and public transportation
•Friday: Recreational assets n Saturday: Paving, plowing and patching up streets.
•Sunday: Dealing with a downsized fire department
•Monday: Cemetery services

For weeks, Sandusky fire Chief Paul Ricci and union personnel offered several other revenuegenerating and cost-cutting measures to avoid layoffs.

Before cuts occurred, union personnel even agreed to various concessions, including forgoing taxpayer-funded physicals, training opportunities and overtime payouts.

But it wasn’t enough.

In total, city commissioners slashed about $186,000 in fire expenses, lowering the department’s budget to $4.5 million in 2014.

The cuts included a $136,000 reduction eliminating four fulltime fire positions, forcing three firefighters out of their jobs by May. The fourth position is currently empty.

“It’s disappointing” Sandusky fire Chief Paul Ricci said. “We knew this day was coming”

Furthermore, city officials approved shutting down Sandusky Fire Station No. 7 on Venice Road near Toft Dairy from May to October, likely prolonging response times for anyone needing emergency assistance on the city’s west side.

“We will get to any emergency one way or another — but it will just take longer,” said Sandusky firefighter Ryan Brotherton, who’s also the department’s union vice president. “If we can’t get to an emergency in a timely fashion, it’s going to be a big problem and people will suffer, hurt and feel loss”

The fire department’s scaling back at a time when community members need them more than ever.

Case in point: Calls for ambulance and fire runs have steadily increased over the past few years, peaking to 5,400 calls in 2013 — the most since the early 2000s.

No commissioner seemed happy about the cuts.

“Tonight marks the bottoming out for Sandusky,” said Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr., who’s spearheaded budget discussions and decisions since entering office in January. “We need to find additional revenues going forward. Continuing to cut is just not an option for the city”

Many residents attending the meeting voiced support for a levy if it meant replenishing and maintaining fire staffing levels and services provided.

“It’s worth it to me and my family to pay a bit more (through a levy) to get help,” Bardshar Road resident Chris Sims said.

Murray, who’s hosted town hall-style meetings in past weeks informing community members about Sandusky’s financial challenges and seeking strategies to counter them, said he’s willing to discuss any reasonable options for finding additional income sources.

“I don’t know what the answers are,” Murray said. “It’s your town. You tell us”



I feel bad if something happens to someone on the west side of town because of this. Especially because the west is still primarily tax payers who are funding these departments to begin with...


Agreed, also there's lots of elderly residents on that side of town


I think it is time for the commissioners to look at raising the admissions tax .25% a year, every year over the next 12 years. first year it will be like 14 cents added to the ticket pretty much half the amount gas goes up in one day. Come on people who is with me on this one it is outside the box.


I think it is time for the commissioners to look at raising the admissions tax .25% a year, every year over the next 12 years. first year it will be like 14 cents add to the ticket pretty much half the amount gas goes up in one day. Come on people who is with me on this one it is outside the box.

Man of the Republic

We are editorializing a little bit aren't we?


Is this your first day?

Man of the Republic

I suppose my comment was a shot at humor. Either way, no this isn't, and yes the editorializing happens too much.

dorothy gale

Fire the city manager and divide her salary between the 4 who lost their jobs. I know it would only be around 25,000 apiece but it is better than NOTHING. This city needs every single one of its first responders!


All a ploy to push their income tax hike through. Rather than raise the admission tax increase and have the tourist pay it.

Julie R.



Two nursing homes, four mobile home parks, lots of businesses and a school all on the west end. Perhaps they should have closed #3 instead of #7.


Perhaps they could have a volunteer fire department of the west side like smaller communities like Milan and Berlin Heights have. They are very professional and their response time is similar to full time fire departments. Just a thought.


How much training and experience have those volunteers had to reach the level of expertise they have?


I'm friends with several in Milan, I'll ask and post when I get home tonight, I know they have to take accredited courses and get certified, but I do not know all of the details.


" all firefighters are required to take a minimum 110-hour NFPA-certified course" That is a minimum. Many departments require or ask that you have other courses or classes. There are also refresher courses and continuing education. Most small towns all have volunteer departments. Are you saying that they are not as well trained or safe as a paid department? Seems rather harsh and judgmental. I know and am related to many. Those men and women risk their lives for doesn't get much more heartfelt and personal than that. The paid ones at least can say it is their job...the volunteers do it out of the NEED or calling to help others.


In no way am I questioning the dedication and skills of any volunteer firefighter.

My point is those skills and expertise are the accumulation of years of experience and training. So a volunteer force is not going to solve the problem of our closed fire station this summer.


Here's what I found out. The difference between MTFD (Milan Township FD) and Sandusky FD is that Sandusky's firefighters are all EMT's. Milan's firemen have the same training in fire related procedures, but are not required to be EMT's, North Central EMS covers emergency situations. Some of Milan's firefighters are EMT's, but not all of them. So given that, a volunteer department would not be adequate for Sandusky, I was just trying to think outside the box and offer a solution.

In The Know

While that may be the NFPA standard, in the State of Ohio, a 36 hour "volunteer" course is all that is needed to become a volunteer firefighter. That is of course unless the individual fire department requires higher training, or the individual person strives to complete the 110 or 240 hour course.


It's irresponsible to close that fire station.

It's unreasonable to leave the admissions tax at 3%. The Point does not pay this tax.

It's questionable to seek a higher income tax from city residents, many of whom work low and minimum wage jobs.

Raising the income tax will not make the city a more attractive place to live.


reader the admission tax will never go up because our so called mayor mr murray. his firm represents cedar point and or cedar fair. so the admissions tax will never go up as long as he is on the city commission.


Every firefighter should file a grievance on Mr Murray with the Supreme Court of Ohio Disciplinary Counsel's office for the appearance of impropriety/conflict of interest between Mr. Murray's job as an attorney and his elected position.

It is insane not to pass an admissions tax increase to 8% (same as other world class amusement parks' customers pay) with a reduction in the income tax to 0.5% to attract new businesses and new residents through lower taxes and improved streets and infrastructure which is currently disgraceful.

Finally, is there a way for citizens to place an Admissions Tax increase on the ballot without the Commission through a referendum?


Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Simple Enough II

For some saying raise the admission tax, how about breaking down who those calls go to, by number, %, severity, by resident vs non residents and by type ( ambulance call non emergency, ambulance call emergency transport with fire trucks tagging along, fire calls or vehicle accidents. etc.) See where the use us before saying someone else needs to pick up the cost. Does sandusky charge for calls & transport? Do they charge for vehicle accident services, if so where does the money go?


They had to balance the budgeting a timely manner. The decision had to be made.

If there is a majority who wish a levy to be introduced than start a petition drive. If there is a majority who wish the admission tax to increase than start a petition drive.

We still have control over our government but you must let them know how we wish to fund this department. Stomping your feet and complaining is not the solution.


The problem is that a lot of us HAVE let them know how we wish additional funding to be accumulated. It's called an admissions tax increase. Although I'll give the current Commission kudos for balancing the budget and making tough decisions to do it, I'm more than a little dismayed at the attitude toward FIXING the shortfall.

We've repeatedly suggested raising the admissions tax to be more in line with the vast majority of other attractions (while noting the local admissions tax hasn't been raised in a very, very long time). What do we hear? Crickets. We've repeatedly said an income tax increase isn't affordable for many, and will make the City LESS attractive to working residents and to businesses. What do we hear? "Oh, let's put an income tax increase on the ballot!"

Do any of the City Commissioners read these comments? If so, I'd like to hear from each and every one of you on these pages with an explanation as to why you're not listening to the people you supposedly represent. I won't hold my breath.


The fact remains other tourist destination cities charge admissions tax rates of 8% and higher.


It's time for the firefighters to get behind an increase in the admissions tax to 8%. An additional $4 million in revenue every year would cover those positions. It's also time for the commissioners to actually discuss the admissions tax. So far, they have inexplicably been limited to discussing raising the income tax, as if there were no other possible source of revenue for the city. If they aren't willing to explore all possible sources of additional revenue, they need to explain why. And if Murray is the only one who is allowed to have an idea, the other commissioners should resign and give their pay back to the city, because there is no point in paying 7 people when only one of them does all of the thinking and speaking.


bogtrotter murray wont bring up the admissions tax increase. His firm represents cedar point and or cedar fair. so the admissions tax increase will never happen as long as he is a city comissioner.


Retired, I think if we could get the others to agree to admission tax increase of .25% a year, every year over the next 12 years. first year it will be like 14 cents added to the ticket pretty much half the amount gas goes up in one day.


Disney just raised the rate for a ticket by $4 ....wasn't that big of a deal.


Yes, they did. A company raking in billions of dollars of profits behaved just as you would expect the 1% to behave: they dug a little deeper.... into the pockets of others.


I would think you would be in favor of a raise in the admission fee, since out of town folk come here and use our collective infrastructure, shouldn't they pay their fair-share for the use of said resources. I highly doubt anyone would notice a 50 cent per ticket increase, it would save these firemen's jobs.


lets start charging for parking at city hall

Truth or Dare

Timed the drive from the Market St. Fire House to my parents on the west end of town. Took 7 minutes, that's traveling the speed limit, getting stopped by 2 lights and bar NO TRAINS! Don't forget, the west end still gets cut-off on W. Monroe St. even with a new overpass. Time from their home to the Venice Rd. station, 1.5 minutes, and that was w/a stop at the red light @ Venice, making a r turn. JUST A MATTER OF MIUNTES!

The red-headed step-child get's the brunt of the punishment, as usual. Won't whine about how much longer it'll take to get to my elderly 80 & 84 yr. old parents home should there be an emergency. Will keep Mr. Stookey's comments in mind. Won't whine about the time to get to my house, of which now sits nestled in a cut-off from a major artery/main-road access area. A neighborhood which has seen an uptick in home invasions, at least 4 in the past 7 months, and a downtick in LE cruising through. Except for the one cruising through around 9 a.m., about 5 hrs. before our next-door neighbor came home to find her home was broken into the previous night, through the back door not 50 ft. away from ours.

I have a question regarding a petition to raise the Adm. Tax being started, should anyone be able to answer. Does the City Commission first need to vote to change the City Charter in order to even be able to petition for it to go on the ballot for a vote?


I would think any tax on citizens would have to be placed on a ballot before it would be done. They couldn't just tax you could they?

I would think a petition on raising this tax on Cedar Point needs to be started quickly and be presented at the next meeting if you want action before the board decides to put a tax on the November ballot to tax the citizens....just a guess. So don't wait around, get busy.




If you feel this strongly, then you should run for office and get things straightened around for everyone who feels as you do. That is the ONLY way to get things right again.

Stop It

Yelling and screaming in a comment section does wonders.


Is it just me, or does anyone else think BEHAPPY is the least happy person in this discussion?


Nah, they're just pissed and fed up. And hey, capitals work wonders for getting a higher- ups' attention , provided they read any of these threads at all.


Get rid of some that are sitting behind desks and KEEP the PEOPLE WE NEED!


That's a simplistic view. Just because they sit behind a desk doesn't make them unimportant. It's a city of almost 30,000, and it won't run by itself, and the people who sit behind desks are the ones who pay the bills and keep it running.

What you really need is enough money to pay for everything the city needs, so you won't be faced with stupid choices like whether you want to have fire protection. Sorry folks, but unless Sandusky wins the lottery, the only way to make that happen is for us all to pay a little more in taxes. Unless you think that Kasich is going to do a 180-degree turn and actually provide more funding for local communities...


Why do you favor an income tax increase over an admissions tax increase? I'm convinced the admissions tax is the best way to go. Is there some drawback to the admissions tax increase or benefit to an income tax increase I'm missing?

Fibber Mcgee

which included eliminating four fulltime fire positions and closing a fire station for six months. Is that both for 6 months? I don't think Cedar Point is going to hurt if we are 4 members short. Volunteer fire service?


A few suggestions...

1. Raise admission tax.
2. Cedar Point could be mandated to have more than 2 firefighters working with just one outdated truck or SFD should start charging ALL actual costs accrued whenever they are called to the park. If Cedar Point had adequate staffing, then station 3 could be closed intermittently (ex: Mon-Thu) but still be open on busy weekends when hotels are full and traffic crashes increase.
3. The above idea would also allow Station 7 to remain open year-round as they serve RESIDENTS not tourists.
4. Establish a volunteer corp of Firefighters that could provide additonal coverage on short notice, during busy periods. They could also go staff a station when SFD is on a major call or out of the city on a mutual aid call.
5. SFD could require nursing homes to have EMS contracts in place for calls that might require an ambulance, but are not necessarily an "emergency". This would improve SFD response times city-wide for 911 calls if a private EMS agency handled the "routine transport" nursing home runs.


Sandman312 your number 2 is partially correct and wrong at the same time. Yes cedar point does only have 2 firefighters on duty. Their equipment is no longer outdated. They retired old cp-15 which was a ford 9000 fire truck. The two ambulances and engine they have now are old sandusky fire units. So they are not completely outdated. They are still required to pass certain test to remain insurable.


Yes, pissed is right~COASTERFAN~since you called me out~I never said we did not need people to run the city or unimportant~just not so many! MANY desk jobs everywhere~too many~I would like to have LE and Firefighters, I happen to appreciate and need them. I bet you do not even live in this city anymore~you probably ran......................


Government on all Levels is too big. No more taxes! I refuse to keep handing over my money using fear based rationale. I will live with a slower response time, or maybe not.


Sugar i hope none of your family get sick and need a ambulance from sandusky fire and it is not available because our city commissioners closed station 7. Yes government is to big but sometimes big is not always bad like when it comes to police or fire.


Sad truth is we are broke. Till jobs that pay wages appear expect more cuts on services.

Dr. Information

Knee jerk reaction. Service will continue and nothing will be felt.


Dr. Information unfortunately you are very wrong on that statement. Which means you are not a real doctor you fool. Some body will die from these cuts.

Fibber Mcgee

Spoken like a true firefighter. Agree with the DR. we won't notice the change.


This is just criminal negligence! For the fire fighters, there are full time positions open and hiring now in North Ridgeville, Lakewood, Avon, Parma, North Olmsted. How can all these other places be hiring, and I heard PNB is looking soon for an EMS director, and they pay for your house while you live on the island. Not sure what the timing is for that one, just heard a retirement coming up soon.

So how is the City of Sandusky pass the safety standards now? They were already faking it with mutual aide.


Just read in the SR that the city had to fund SPARC over $300,000 to cover their costs this year.

Lets see…. Continue unlimited entitlement for a few or provide firefighters to all.

Entitlement wins, Entitlement wins !!!


ok....with the idea of NOT just "feeding the pig".
What can we do different?
When CP(or Disney) raises their ticket price. The city gets a bump also in the admissions tax collected. So, in reality the city HAS collected more in taxes just the rate hasn't changed, Correct?
What will this raise in rates pay for? Salaries for firefighters? Haven't salaries been going up contractually? What are the city firefighter salaries compared to cities our size? So, if we raise the rate but don't do anything a few short years we will be having the same discussion on how to "feed the pig". I vote to do things differently. Try some new ideas. Change is hard.


I swear, Sandusky has one of the most inept local governments I have ever seen. Glad I left that craphole.

Ralph J.

Increase the admissions tax now. Don't wait until Kasich puts a sales tax on amusement park tickets, bowling, museums, sporting events including high school sport events, county fairs and also lawyer fees. This is only a short list of taxable events to come. Add cable TV, billiards, movie theaters, coin operated video games, dog grooming and maybe even Bike Week.