New Belpre fire chief also wears city council hat

BELPRE – The Belpre community was given a new fire chief Monday evening when a longtime member of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department was sworn in to duty during the city council meeting.

“I am really proud for this opportunity to serve the community of Belpre as their fire chief,” said new Belpre Fire Chief Eric Sinnett. “I have a lot of great men and women in the department and look forward to this new opportunity.”

Sinnett, who is also the 3rd Ward councilman, has been with the department 33 years and has been a member of Belpre City Council since January 2010. He has chosen not to seek re-election in November.

“It is my pleasure to swear-in Eric,” said Mayor Mike Lorentz. “This decision did not come easily or quickly and, in the end, he was chosen by the members of the fire department to serve as their new chief.”

One of the more significant changes that come with Sinnett’s new title is the change council made Monday to the position of fire chief.

Council suspended the rules and passed all three readings of legislation to change the fire chief from a paid, city employee position to that of a volunteer.

Sinnett had originally announced he would abstain from voting on the readings because he is chief and the legislation pertains to him, but Council President Will Neff said the abstention was not necessary.

“Elected members of council should abstain from voting on legislation that benefits them and this particular legislation in no way benefits Mr. Sinnett,” Neff said.

Sinnett’s vote was necessary because 1st Ward Councilman Larry Martin was absent and votes from all six council members in attendance were required.

for the multiple readings.

“This new agreement gives the city a volunteer chief that offsets the $50,000-plus salary for the city,” Sinnett said.

Along with Sinnett being named chief, Lorentz also swore in Jenny Price as new squad captain and Tony Cronin as assistant fire chief for the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department.

Following congratulations from city officials and his fellow council members, Sinnett thanked them for their confidence in his abilities.

“I really appreciate the votes of confidence, but I am only as good as the people with me and they are all great,” he said.

In other business:

* City council’s police and fire committee discussed changing how the money received from the emergency squad run billing with Medical Claims Assistance (MCA) is divided between the city and fire department.

Sinnett, who until the end of Monday’s council meeting was chair of the police and fire committee, said the agreement city and fire department officials decided on was to switch the percentages.

As the legislation is written, the money is split with 20 percent going to the fire department to help pay for new vehicles and 80 percent into the city’s general fund.

The proposed change is for the city to receive 20 percent and the fire department to receive the 80 percent, which will allow it to pay for the on-duty emergency medical technicians (EMTs), squad and medical supplies.

“There has been a lot of thought going into this and I don’t know of a better plan,” Lorentz said.

The change was suggested by Lorentz and Safety-Service Director Dave Ferguson last month following more than a month of discussions.

In early July, representatives of the fire department announced to city council that they no longer had the funds to keep its two full-time and two part-time EMTs.

Lorentz said the reversed division of collected funds will not only cover the EMTs and medical supplies for the ambulances, but also other equipment the fire department needs to operate safely.

Council will continue discussions on the MCA contract during the Oct. 14 meeting.