Monday, April 7, 2014








Stark County's hazardous materials (HAZMAT)  incidents have not been that many over the nearly 25 years that the have passed by since a countywide HAZMAT team was put together in 1987.

But these incidents do happen.

On October 6, 2013 the well being of the citizens of Canton was threatened when a fire broke out at a defunct factory located in the heart of the city.

Thousands of Cantonians had to flee their homes as sulfur dioxide burned nearby.

While HAZMAT situations do not occur all that often, one is always grateful when there are first responders to come to the rescue.

Laurie Huffman of the Alliance Review in a recent article (Stark's HAZMAT Team may move move near Jail, April 1, 2014) very nicely described what Stark's HAZMAT does:
The county hazmat team received state verification as a Type 2 team that can respond to any chemical hazard, outside of weapons of mass destruction, which would require a Type 1 team. Stark's team responds to industrial and transportation accidents, even when the chemicals are unknown. The team consists of firefighters from Alliance, Canton, Canton Township, Greentown, Jackson Township, Massillon, North Canton and Uniontown.
Moreover, Huffman sets forth the motivation of the HAZMAT leaders to move from a $21,000 per year lease (heretofore underwritten by federal grant grant money) to having its own building at somewhere near $210,000 to $220,000.

Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Warstler pointed out to commissioners that HAZMAT has wanted for years to own its facility thereby saving the $21,000 annual lease money less of course annual maintenance/upkeep costs that inures to anyone owning a capital structure.  However, Ohio officials and  federal auditors turned thumbs down on the ownership idea.  With the federal dollars evaporating, he and his fellow HAZMAT leaders are trying interest the commissioners in undertaking such a project.

The October 6th incident was of particular concern because of failure in Stark County's emergency communications system whereby Canton and Stark County emergency call takers were unable to receive calls between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and Noon because of what is believed to have been a "glitch" in the AT&T communications network.

 The point of this blog is to emphasize the "visionary" nature of Stark County emergency force leaders back in 1987 and being demonstrated again here in 2014 as, perhaps, aided by Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton.


Last Monday at a work session of the Stark County commissioners the leadership of the Stark County HAZMAT Team took time out of their busy schedules to present to the commissioners "their vision for the future."

But in prepared remarks, Massion Fire Chief Thomas Burgasser (2013 City of Massillon "Agency Director of the Year) reminded the commissioners of the "future looking" of prior Stark emergency forces leaders with this comment:

(SCPR Note:  Massillon's Tom Burgasser is a direct, plain spoken public official who appears to brook no nonsense.  He worked well as Massillon fire chief in both the Frank Cicchinelli and - so far - in the Kathy Catazaro-Perry administration.)
As a result of a partnership between the Stark County Fire Chiefs Association "SCFCA" [LINK to December newsletter added by SCPR]  and the Stark County Commissioners, the Stark County Hazardous Materials Team was created by resolution passed on March 24,1987. At that time and as a part of that resolution, the County Commissioners agreed to contribute $180,000 initially and an annual installment of $30,000. Federal Grant funding and participating agency contributions of manpower, facility space and other contributions have allowed the team to operate at that same funding level for 27 years.

In 2013 it became clear to the SCFCA leadership that HAZMAT could not go at $30,000 received annually from Stark County's general fund and asked for an updated allocation to $65,000 per annum in light of a huge drop of of federal and state grant funding.

At the outset of last Monday's meeting the SCFCA presentation (handled for the most part by Chief Burgasser and Jackson Fire Chief Tracy Hogue).  (Bugasser and Hogue are SCFCA board executive committee members)

The SCPR doesn't know if Chief Burgasser has been talking to the commissioners and their administrators (Luther  [chief administrator] and Nichols [the budget director/manager]) but he sounded a familiar theme of the commissioners' office is describing a new funding model (given the drying up of federal/state grant money) so as to make HAZMAT financially "sustainable" for the foreseeable future.

The core of the SCFCA proposal is an annual assessment to "participating" (those who supply team members [whose training is largely paid by their respective political subdivisions]) and "non-participating" members.  There is a rebate from HAZMAT funds to "participating" members.

A video of the entire HAZMAT work session is placed at he end of this blog.

Next up was Commissioner Janet Creighton.

For being a Republican officeholder, she surprised the Stark County Political Report in apparently eschewing Burgasser's model, to wit:
In order to continue to sustain the current Hazardous Materials Team, aggressive billing for services must be undertaken. In the event there is no responsible party to bill, political subdivisions are ultimately responsible for the response and use of these services. Bearing this in mind, the Stark County Fire Chiefs and the Stark County Commissioners have developed an annual assessment schedule for political subdivisions to avoid receiving an invoice for responses when there is no chargeable or responsible party from which to collect. It is a modest assessment based on factors such as population, team member participation, and the number of Extreme Hazardous Substance (EHS) Facilities present and the parameters are attached. Those political subdivisions who choose not to pay the assessment will be billed accordingly in the event of a hazardous materials incident in their communities when a responsible party cannot be determined. Please understand this assessment was not a decision made lightly; but rather a decision necessary to continue to provide the current level of service.

Here is a video excerpt of Creighton taking a position that she = one of three commissioners - in not for "nickel-and -diming Starl County taxpayers to death.

To the SCPR such a suggestion is so very "unRepublican."  The Report's take on many Republicans is that the are very much into making everything a "profit center" with the concept's inherent "accountability" for the efficient use of capital funds.  And, of course, that governments are not profit-centers.  Quite to the contrary.  Governments take from you and I and then spend-spend-spend, no?

Haven't we heard from those folks (i.e. the 'profit-center' Republicans) ad nauseum about those "tax-and-spend Democrats?"

Creighton's unpredictability is a primary reason that she is the SCPR's favorite Republican.  While she makes no apologies for being a "thoroughgoing Republican," Creighton shows that she can separate herself from party ideology and interests when she sees those ideologies/interests burden everyday citizens.

It was "a real hoot" when later in the meeting Creighton tabbed herself a Richard Regula (after fellow commissioner Richard Regula who is known for being prone to want to spend money especially when it comes to solving Stark's chronic water drainage problems).

Witness this video.  (Look out for Commissioner Thomas Bernabei "hilarious" exchange with her which begins:  "Okay, Richard ... ."

As readers of SCPR know, The Report regularly roasts those Stark County politicians who seemingly put political party ideology, interests and personal pollitical interests above the public interest.

 Janet Creighton knows how to and demonstrates that she can rightly divide.

The SCPR agrees with Commissioner Creighton and trusts that Commissioners Bernabei (a Democrat, by the way) and Regula in absorbing the additional costs without placing indirectly a potentially additional tax on base level (i.e. township, village and city) governments.

Because of the vision and frugality of the Stark County HAZMAT leadership over two and one-half decades, it appears to the SCPR that the Creighton plan is doable with out violating "the good stewardship" standard of county general fund management that Stark Countians have come to expect of the commissioners and all Stark County elected and appointed officials.

It has been the "wring out every cent out of a taxpayer dollar (federal, state and local)" way of operating by the past and current leadership of the SCFCA and still provide "first-rate" HAZMAT services that has put this Board of Stark County of Commissioners in a position to do as  Creighton suggested.

Go for it commissioners!

Here is the "complete" video of the HAZMAT work session of Monday, March 31, 2014.

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