Commissioners donate funds to help with water rescue efforts in Portage


Portage County Commissioners agreed to donate $ 15,000 to the County Water Rescue Team after learning the group had no county-wide funding source to offset its expenses.

The team, made up of firefighters from across the county specially trained in water rescue, have been busy this summer rescuing people due to high water, including several rescues on the Cuyahoga River in Kent.

Firefighters involved in the team, along with Ryan Shackelford, chief of the County Emergency Management Agency, recently spoke to the team’s work commissioners. They came at the request of Commissioner Tony Badalamenti, who struck up a conversation with Deerfield Fire Chief Brian Allison, a member of the team.

Scott Simmons, leader of the Water Rescue Team and a member of the Kent Fire Department, said the team started 20 years ago as part of the Sheriff’s Service. The team split up and are now a group of 30 firefighters representing seven departments.

Members are paid by their own fire departments, but rely on grants to pay for items such as coveralls and specialized equipment, as well as training.

Shackelford said the team had received homeland security grants in the past for urban search and rescue. However, dollars have dried up more recently.

Without a grant, the team depends on donations, funding from the fire departments that make up the team, and gifts from the state, Simmons said.

The team, Simmons said, are responding to emergencies in any body of water, including the Cuyahoga River in Kent and the Berlin Reservoir in Deerfield. In addition, the team has been called to private lakes and ponds, sumps and golf course water bodies. These, Simmons said, require specialized coveralls due to the pesticide runoff from the golf course and e-coli from the geese.

Because team members often respond from afar, Simmons said, the department is looking for a trailer to park in the southeastern part of Portage County, allowing team members to pick up supplies en route to. Berlin.

Bob Rasnick, chief of the Suffield fire department, said the team needed funding for ongoing costs, such as boat inspections and overtime. Recently, he said, his ministry had to find $ 5,000 to replace a boat used for relief on the Mogaore Reservoir.

“It’s the maintenance costs that bite us,” he said.

The commissioners agreed to give the team $ 15,000. Badalamenti said his conversations with team members indicated that most basic needs could be funded with this amount of money.

County administrator Michelle Crombie suggested that the commissioners allocate the equipment to a specific need, such as equipment, in order to relieve themselves of any responsibility for the work done by the team. Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett, however, said that all participants are insured by their own services.

Contact reporter Diane Smith at [email protected]

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