ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Cumberland Trail Fire District Board of Directors and firefighters have honored former St. Clairsville Councilman Frank Sabatino, who served on council for 24 years before his retirement.
Fire Chief Tim Hall presented the award.
“I know these 24 years have seen a lot of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, a lot of devastation and a lot of positivity. Thank you for your time and persistence.” said Hall.
“It was a pleasure” Sabatino said. “It’s an honor.”
“I don’t know how many fire boards can be as good as the one you left this one in, statewide,” said John Slavik, Board Member.
Sabatino was emotional as he reminisced about his time on the board.
“When I was first elected (to the council) 24 years ago, they asked me to participate. I accepted, thinking it was just a one-year assignment, but it turned into 24 wonderful years,” he said, adding that he sees the importance of the district and the firefighting board.
“It was a collective effort” he said. “There have been many, many changes. … We stood together. …Where we are today is because everyone is sticking together for the good of the citizens of the Cumberland Trail Fire District,” he said. “Every day, every year, there were challenges, and thank God we were able to accept those challenges and move forward. … It was a wonderful experience.
The latest accomplishment of the fire district was the transfer of ownership of the main fire station on Marietta Street from the city to the district, which will allow the district to seek more funding for improvements.
“It’s a highly respected fire department,” Sabatino said.
At its meeting on Tuesday, the board discussed the demands in 2021 and the challenges ahead.
Hall reported 3,434 calls in 2021, a total of 249 calls more than the previous highest call year of 2019. The four most used vehicles were district ambulances, with two vehicles responding to nearly 1,000 calls each.
There were 2,905 emergency incident calls, including vehicle crashes, and 782 non-EMS calls. The district provided mutual aid to other departments 120 times and received aid 140 times.
Hall also noted a longer turnaround time for hospital transportation.
“These hospitals right now – whether it’s because of staff, whether it’s because of COVID, whether it’s because of other ailments or illnesses and trying to give patients the best definitive care and the treatment they need – becoming more and more of a daunting task for our employees due to overwhelmed hospitals,” said Hall.
He said the district is considering expanding the pool of potential hospitals it flies patients to to include sites in places like Steubenville or Cambridge.
“However, this represents even more time that the ambulance is out of service. And by communicating with these hospitals, they see the same problems as us at the local level”, said Hall.
He also noted difficulties in finding and retaining firefighters.
“The detention for fire, EMS, law enforcement and just general public safety is bad,” Hall said, adding that communities such as Columbus offer more compensation and smaller departments cannot compete.
“We are in competition with the center of Ohio”, he said
“It’s an area at the moment where we don’t see a lot of people entering” said Hall. “Locally, we need to start going into schools internally and externally and see what we can do to motivate some of these young children.”
“Richland Township itself is a huge area, and then you put in the town of St. Clairsville,” Sabatino said, adding that the city has grown since the fire station was built in the late 1970s. “With the (Ohio Valley) Mall and the (Ohio Valley) Plaza, all the surrounding buildings that have been built, we have to move forward. … It has been two very difficult years with COVID.
Sabatino did not seek re-election as a councillor. Her seat as the city’s representative on the Fire District Board of Directors was held by Councilwoman Linda Jordan.