Agreement preserves 24/7 on-duty coverage
MILLERSPORT - It took some time Tuesday night, but Walnut Township Trustees and the Village of Millersport eventually reached an agreement to keep two part-time paramedics on-duty around-the-clock at the Millersport Fire Department.
Two weeks ago, Millersport Fire Chief Bill Yates told trustees that the department would have to cut back on-duty hours to 10 hours a day, seven days a week on February 1. Yates had been seeking a commitment for funding to pay for the additional on-duty hours since voters approved a new three-mill firetownship levy in November. Yates got a positive "head nod" from Trustees Sonny Dupler and Wally Gabriel in December, but village officials and Yates wanted something in writing.
Tuesday night's discussion began with Yates presenting a contract to trustees seeking 73 percent of the revenue from the township's four levies totalling six mills. "Our run area (Millersport Fire Department) is our school district area," Yates said. The school district accounts for 73 percent of the township's tax valuation.
Yates also broke down actual expenditures for the past year and projected expenditures for the 73 percent contract. "The biggest part of this is what we promised the public - additional personnel," he explained.
Pauline Ety, township fiscal officer,said the county auditor's officecertified that the township will receive at least $890,000 this year from all four firelevies - three one-mill and new three-mill.
Yates said the budgeted $356,000 expenditure for parttime personnel would provide two paramedics on-duty at the Millersport station around-theclock and three paramedics on-duty 10 hours a day, seven days a week. Two of the 10 hour a day positions would be at the department's FairfieldBeach station. The third slot could move around to meet specific needs, possibly to help improve the department's ISO rating which could lead to lower fireinsurance rates for residents.
Yates asked several times what else trustees needed to get the agreement done. Trustee President Ralph Zollinger and Dupler both said they needed time to review the contract. Zollinger suggested trustees and village officials meet again to discuss it.
Dupler asked Yates why the department couldn't continue the 24/7 on-duty coverage when they have enough money to do so for at least three months. "You hesitated putting it in writing," Yates responded. He agreed that there is no problem for three months, but must look at what happens later in the year. He asked for something in writing.
"You know you'll get money," Dupler said. "You'll get money but I won't say how much." He added that 65 percent of nearly $900,000 is a lot different than 65 percent of about $400,000.
"We need something concrete," Millersport Council member Dave Levacy said. Village officials left a December meeting with trustees believing that the existing 65 percent contract of three mills would be revised via an addendum to 65 percent of six mills. Ety, Dupler and Zollinger said an addendum was discussed, but no decision was made.
"This isn't our money or your money," Levacy said. "It is the taxpayers."
"We need to give them some idea of what we are going to give them for 24 hour coverage," Gabriel said. "I think this has gone on too long," Levacy added. He also responded to Dupler's comment to The Beacon last week that trustees have received complaints that the Millersport Fire Department is spending too much money.
"We're not spending too much money," Levacy said. "We watch how the money is spent."
"I say write an addendum for the other three mills," Gabriel proposed. "Do it right now." Dupler offered funding 24 hour coverage for 60 or 75 days. "We ought to at least have a day or two to go over the contract," he added.
"It gets done what we need," Gabriel said. He noted that coverage at The Beach is included.
Zollinger then moved to approve 65 percent of the "fire levy money" with the final contract wording contingent on approval of the county prosecutor's office.Gabriel seconded it and all three trustees voted "yes."
Yates will redo the budget at 65 percent. Trustees and village officials will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at the township officesto work out the details.
"I want to thank you three gentlemen (trustees)," Levacy said to a round of applause from the audience.
"We'll implement 24/7 ASAP," Yates told The Beacon after the meeting.
In other business, trustees set a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 13 to consider a recommendation from the Zoning Commission to remove Note 3 from Section 701.1 of the township zoning resolution. The note allows property owners in lakefront districts to use roadways and easements to meet setback requirements.
Trustees also learned that the township lost a couple tenths of a mile of roadway on Fisher Road on Lieb's Island. The township now has responsibility for 57.94 miles of roadway. Trustees also agreed to purchase 150 tons of salt after using 65 tons of salt Sunday. Road superintendent Randy Kemmerer said roads were cleared in record time Sunday. He also reported that the township has been able to purchase two lots on Cedar in FairfieldBeach for a total of $2,000. Dupler said he is now working with the county to get three adjoining lots that ended up there after failing to attract a bid at several sheriff's sales and reverting to the state. Dupler said the three lots, combined with the two just purchased, will provide enough room for a new township baseball field.
Dupler also reported on the first meeting of the fireadvisory group. He met with the Millersport and Thurston fire chiefs and representatives of both villages last month. The group is focused on working better together and providing improved service. The group's next meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15 at the township office. Trustees' next regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13 with a public hearing at 6:30 p.m.