Herald Staff Writer
The cities of Norton and Barberton may join forces to create the Southwest Summit Joint Fire District. Norton Ward 4 Councilman Paul Tousley introduced an ordinance at the June 17 meeting that proposes a memo of understanding (MOU) with Barberton to study whether the formation of a joint fire district would benefit the two cities. The ordinance proposes hiring an outside consultant to explore if a joint fire district would provide enhanced fire and EMS coverage, operational efficiency, cost savings and whether it would be in the best financial interests of both cities. The memo says the cost of the study would be split evenly between the two cities, neither paying more than $5,000. Tousley, Council President Joe Kernan and Council at Large Charlotte Whipkey admitted having doubts about the feasibility. Kernan said, “They’re going to have to show me that this is a better idea. I’m a bit skeptical, but that’s why you do the study.” Whipkey said before a new joint fire district would be created, the council would have to look a lot closer at the study’s finding. The city’s fire levy comes up for renewal next year. “We’re doing our due diligence to see if we can do it a better way and if we can save money,” Markey said. The ordinance will receive two more readings and if adopted, the study could take six to nine months to complete. Barberton City Council also voted to adopt the partnership with Norton regarding the study. They declared the ordinance an emergency. By declaring it an emergency ordinance, it means that the study would start immediately after approval. Otherwise the study would not begin until 30 days after approval. The Barberton Fire contract is up for renewal at the end of the year.