2007-04-28 / News

Millersport, Walnut Township reach agreement on fire contract

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - It turned out to be a big payday when Millersport Mayor Dean Severance and several village council members went to the Walnut Township Trustees' meeting Tuesday night. They left with a check for $283,190.07.

Trustees unanimously approved a revised one-year contract for fireand EMS services with the village. Trustee Sonny Dupler said three items had been removed at the village's request. Though he didn't outline the changes, the Millersport Fire Department won't have to respond to any emergency in 8 minutes or less. References to outdated sections of the state firelaws were also removed.

The contract does set minimum staffing levels and requires a crew at the FairfieldBeach substation for ten hours a day, seven days per week. Those hours will be set through discussions with FairfieldBeach residents and a review of past emergency runs to the area. Dupler expects that staffing to begin once Millersport signs the contract.

Severance said legislation will be prepared for the next council meeting, May 8, to approve the contract. "My only comment is that it be a longer contract," council member Dave Levacy said. Past contracts with the township have been for four years. In a response to a question about one year versus four years, Dupler said trustees have been told that four year contracts are illegal. When asked about the continuing contract recently signed with the Village of Thurston, Dupler said it's a "contract of ownership," not one for services.

Dupler emphasized that the $283,190.07 check is an advance payment since there isn't a contract yet with the village.

Clerk/Treasurer Pauline Ety said the township received $435,677.03 from firelevies last Friday from the county. The next quarterly payment will be small since property taxes are only collected twice a year. The next big payment will be the third quarter one in September. The contract allocates 65 percent of the firelevy income to Millersport. Ety said the township's legal costs for an outside attorney were not taken from firelevy income.

Just as one controversy is resolved, another came close to the boiling point. Some 16 Sellers Drive residents came to the meeting to complain about parking for Smitty's. Mike Hickey reminded trustees that he had complained about parking last October. "We still have issues," he said. Parking along Sellers Drive endangers residents by making it difficultfor fireand rescue vehicles to get to homes. He also said Smitty's leasee Roman Pallone is violating zoning regulations by using residentially zoned property for commercial parking. Hickey wants trustees to ask the Fairfield County Sheriff's Officeto enforce the "no parking" signs. He also wants the township to enforce zoning regulations which prohibit commercial parking on residential property.

Township zoning inspector Ralph Reeb said parking has nothing to do with zoning, adding that zoning isn't going to check whether the occupants of vehicles parked in a driveway at a residential property are at that property or at a nearby restaurant or bar. "It's a sheriff' issue," he added. "They are in violation of a parking issue, not a zoning issue."

Pallone said he is the tenant at a nearby home and lets his family and friends park there. He noted some vehicles have been ticketed and asked that neighbors who also park on the township's right-ofway also be ticketed. Smitty's goes back to 1957, Pallone said, so everyone knew there was a commercial business in their neighborhood.

"Parking was never an issue until Mr. Pallone began operating that restaurant," Hickey responded.

"I think you've (Reeb) made it clear that this use of this property is illegal," Sellers Drive resident Dan Harris said. "We're asking for an enforcement commitment."

If enforcement is the direction, Pallone said, he wants equal treatment all along Sellers Drive. Ety cut off debate, announcing that trustees will send a letter to the sheriff's officeand leave it up to them. Trustee Wally Gabriel suggested both sides try to work it out so everybody can get along. His plea fell on deaf ears.

In other business Tuesday night, trustees agreed to spend $16,500 for a 2001 F-250 diesel pickup to pull recycling trailers and serve as a service truck. "It's a heck of a lot cheaper than a $44,000 pickup," road superintendent Randy Kemmerer said. The truck has been extensively road tested.

Trustee President Ralph Zollinger said he's given up after three years of trying to convince the county engineer that the township could repair Cattail Road. Kemmerer had a similar message on the status of repairs for the collapsed culvert under Holder Road. The county engineer is insisting on handling the repair, he said. Plans will be done by the end of the month.

Trustees also approved three more part-time personnel for the Thurston-Walnut Township Fire Department on the recommendation of Chief Jim Hite. The three are Zach Justice, Brett Bowen and John Lanbrecht. The names will be submitted to Thurston Village Council on May 10.

Trustees also agreed to meet with the Fairfield and Licking county commissioners and the Licking County Water and Wastewater Department about the extension of a sewer line down Summerland Beach road. The line extension would serve 27 homes with failing septic tanks.

Trustees next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8 at the township offices.

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