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Ironton city leaders looking to generate revenue to avoid financial disaster down the road

City of Ironton is looking at a possible volunteer fire department instead of a paid one to generate money. (WCHS/WVAH)

Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith says the city is on the road to a financial disaster if they don't act now. All options are on the table, including going from a paid fire department to a volunteer department.

"It scares me as mayor to even have an option that we would look at going to a volunteer department," said Mayor Keith.

The Ironton Fire Department is caught in the middle as the City of Ironton tries to get its financial house in order.

"It hurts morale. It makes the guys wonder if their jobs and their services are really of value," said Ironton Fire Chief Mike Mahlmeister.

He says volunteer departments are great in other places but would not work in Ironton. He says his firefighters can get to the scene quicker. Another option being talked about to save money is going from a 5-member shift to a 3-member shift.

"We have minimum standards if we want to to go inside to fight a fire, go in for a rescues. We have to have 2 men in and 2 men out. Having just 3 guys on the crew, that leaves them very short handed and there's a lot more than what 3 guys can do," said Chief Mahlmeister.

"At the end of 2019, within five years the City of Ironton, probably 95% of all of our departments will be in the red," said Mayor Keith.

With a $5-million total budget, Mayor Keith says the city is in the middle of a sewer overflow project mandate from the EPA totaling nearly $30-million. That's why she says options like raising fees, implementing new ones and cutting services are being considered

"I'll do everything that I can in order to keep a paid staff. I'm not interested in laying off the entire department and go to a volunteer fire department," said Mayor Keith.

In the end it's city council that controls city money.

On January 31st a public forum has been scheduled to get citizen input on the city's financial situation. It begins at 6 PM at the Mains Rotunda of the Riffe Center on the campus of Ohio University Southern in Ironton

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