The defeat of two back-to-back levies to support fire and emergency medical services in Norton has left the city in a precarious situation. Firefighters have been laid off, the station now with no one on duty from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The community relies on mutual aid. Calls for emergency medical services are referred to a private ambulance service.
This past Wednesday, slow response to a fire at the Father’s House Church meant disaster, the 11:30 p.m. blaze reducing the church to rubble. In the aftermath, Mayor Mike Zita, a former volunteer firefighter who was on the scene, urged passage of a fire and EMS levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.
What Norton really could use is another option. It would benefit from a crash course in consolidation, pursuing not a levy or mutual aid agreements with neighboring communities, but a regional approach to fire and emergency medical services. As it is, the city has moved too slowly on this front, Norton and Copley Township agreeing in 2009 to operate a joint dispatching center.
Still, that merger resulted in the two communities cutting their costs in half — with no reduction in personnel. The city also contracts with the Summit County engineer for daily services, the first community in the county to do so.
By failing to advance further a regional approach, Zita and the City Council have presented voters in Norton with a false choice: pass a levy or watch buildings burn down or loved ones suffer while waiting for an ambulance. Forging a regional solution to fire and emergency medical services would save money and improve outcomes.