24/7 fire/EMS coverage could end Dec. 31
By Charles Prince
MILLERSPORT - "You'll find that out when you get the contract," Walnut Township Trustee told Millersport Council member Paul Detty last week. Detty had asked about returning to multi-year contracts for fire/ EMS services.
Detty got his answer when a draft contract was faxed to Millersport Friday afternoon. It is was a big "no," but that isn't the only issue that could end 24/7 on-station coverage at the Millersport Fire Station and 12 hours a day, seven days a week coverage at FairfieldBeach by the end of this month.
"I still don't understand their problem with going more than a year," Mayor Dean Severence said at Tuesday night's council meeting. Fire Chief Bill Yates said trustees' purported concern about the stability of levy income isn't a real issue since contracts have been based on a percentage of the levy income. If income drops, so do payments to Millersport. Plus three of the four firelevies are now permanent.
The township's last minute contract proposal also cuts payments to Millersport by at least 7.69 percent as the village's share drops from 65 percent to 60 percent. "Our district produces 70%+ of the revenue," Council member Dave Levacy said. "The math doesn't work." Yates said Millersport's primary run area is basically the school district. Based on last year's valuations, that works out to be about 73 percent of the township's valuation.
"We did 80 percent of the work in 2006," Yates added.
The proposal also takes some expenses right off the top of the firelevy income, stating "after all incurred expenses, including but not limited to, Fire Ombudsman fees, attorneys' fees, etc." "How do I put a dollar amount on 'etc.'," Yates asked.
Trustees appointed township firemarshal Billy Phillips ombudsman at a reconvened meeting at the Millersport Fire Station on Sept. 24. There was no mention of payment for his services. There's been no contact with Phillips since then, Yates said. Village officials don't know how much would be taken off the top before they get their reduced cut.
Yates questioned whether the proposal was offered in good faith. He had previously been directed not to schedule the department's part-time staff for January until village officials had a chance to review the long awaited contract proposal. That didn't change Tuesday night.
"I'm worried that we are going to lose some of these guys (part-timers)," Detty said. Yates agreed that is a risk since most of them count on their part-time hours and can easily move to another department.
The proposal also increases the amount of information that must be provided to trustees and sets tighter deadlines for its receipt. "They still don't believe we are complying with the contract," Yates said. He believes everything requested has been provided. "It's not clear what they want," Yates added.
Levacy objected to the information demands. "We're not Joe Blow on the street," he explained. "We have to also answer to the auditor of state. No matter what we do, it is not enough."
If a contract isn't in place by Jan. 1, the department will be revert back to 100 percent volunteers. "The sad part this takes us back to the early 1990s," Yates said. "We will do our best with what we have."
Severence will try to set up a meeting with trustees, their attorney, Yates and the village solicitor as soon as possible. "Hopefully we can work out our differences," Levacy said.
At this point, trustees have one more meeting this year. It is set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at the township offices.
In other business Tuesday night, FairfieldCounty Sheriff Dave Phalen said 36 people graduate Dec. 12 from the Mobilie Community Watch Program training. They are the first graduates, completing 32 hours of training. About 130 people have volunteered for the new program. Graduates will patrol the county in specially marked vehicles. They won't have arrest powers, but will provide more trained eyes to watch for criminal activity. Upon request, the volunteers will erform routine house checks of unoccupied homes.
Phalen and Lt. Tim Voris brought up the possibility of creating a substation at the village offices,primarily to be used to write reports and take bathroom breaks. Deputies already have a substation at the FairfieldBeach Fire Station. Detty also asked for their help in monitoring the school zone on Ohio 204 in front of the elementary school.
Council members set earlier deadlines for residents to reserve one of the village-owned boat docks for next summer. Rent will still be $250 per dock, but at least half payment is due by March 1 with the balance due April 1. Any docks still available after April 1 will be offered to non-residents.
Severence said ODOT has agreed to conduct a traffic study as part of the village's request to set a uniform 25 mph speed limit on Ohio 204 within the village limits.
Council members heard a bit more optimistic report on the completion of the new water treatment plant. Start-up is now anticipated by mid-January. The contractor will be paying a $100 per day penalty for every day work extends beyond Nov. 11. Work on the Phase 1 waterline extension project is well underway.
ouncil members also approved
employee raises for 2008. Most rates were increased 5 percent.
After an executive session, council members promoted police officerRandy Lewis to the rank of captain. Council's next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 8 in the village offices.