2007-12-22 / News

Union Township to pay more for fire/EMS protection

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON- The Granville Township Fire Department and the Union Township Trustees will have much to discuss when they negotiate the conditions of a new firecontract to replace the current contract, which expires Dec. 31.

Granville Township Fire Chief Jeff Hussey conducted an analysis of the Granville Township Fire Department's current needs and sent a letter to the trustees stating that he will likely seek an increase in payment next year over the existing contract. It's important to note that as of Dec. 19 Hussey had not met personally with the trustees to discuss a contract, or had trustees discussed the situation in an open session beyond mentioning they received Hussey's letter during Monday night's regular trustees' meeting.

Hussey sent calculations to the trustees, which he said are only designed to provide a frame of reference as his department considers the conditions of a new contract. He emphasized he is entering into discussions with the trustees in a spirit of cooperation.

According to Hussey's letter,, the Granville Township Fire Department provides fireand EMS services to the northern portion of Union Township, north of the CSX rail line. In 2007, Union Township paid Granville Township $18,000 for this service. Prior to 2007, the annual fee had been $14,000 per year since 2000.

As a new firechief, Hussey said he's taken particular interest in the subject of buying and selling contractual services. In fact, he said, he is writing an applied research project for the Ohio Fire Chief's Executive Fire Officerprogram on the subject. "It is very important to the Granville Township Trustees, fiscal officer,and myself to continue having an excellent working relationship with Union Township as we develop a new agreement for 2008 and beyond," Hussey wrote. "In reviewing past fire protection agreements, it is apparent that the fees for service have remained static for many years." And, he said, the service area is evolving from a rural to a residential area. In the past year, Hussey said the firedepartment hired additional full-time staffing and purchased several new vehicles.

Hussey said he's typically seen several common ways of determining new fees. The most popular methods are:

• Calls for service • Property valuation (risk)

• Revenues received

Most research, he said, shows that a blend of two or more methods typically yields the best results. Hussey proposes that each method is evaluated independently to determine a basis for contract discussions. Here are his conclusions:

In 2008, he said, the operating budget for the firedepartment is expected to be more than $1,300,000. When evaluated over several years, fivepercent of all Granville Township Fire Department calls serve the Union Township contract area. Based on this method of fee calculation, the cost would be determined to be $65,000. This method, said Hussey, while fairly common, is easily determined, but also varies from year to year. This variation may significantlyimpact contract fees from year to year and is generally not considered to be a good measure of protected risk.

Another method of fee determination, he said, is based on property valuation. This method is based on the total value of protected property, similar to an insurance policy. Under this method, the portion of Union Township served by Granville firehas a market value of nearly $104 million. The entire Granville fireservice area is valued at more than $1 billion, according to the Licking County Auditor. Using this methodology, the Union Township portion of the Granville fireoperating budget should be 10 percent, or $150,000 annually.

One other approach that Hussey said was used with McKean Township, which is adjacent to Granville Township to the north, is simply to determine the amount of fire protection funds that were collected in the Granville firecontract service area and enter into a protection contract for that amount. Hussey said this method was considered to be fair by all parties. This approach allows the money collected to pass directly to the entity servicing the contracted area (in this case the Granville Township Fire Department). Hussey said he analyzed the Granville fire service area of Union Township in great detail and determined the 2007 firetaxes to be $115,000 per the Licking County Auditor's office.

Another point regarding this method, said Hussey, is that both Granville and McKean townships have worked to keep firetax millage at similar rates. In 2007, Granville Township residents paid 4.031 mills (effective) and McKean Township resident paid 4.195 mills (effective). In comparison, he said Union Township residents paid 3.06 mills (effective) for fire protection. If tax collection rates were equalized, said Hussey in his letter, the portion of Union Township served by the Granville Township Fire Department generated $151,000 in 2007, and would generate nearly $170,000 in 2008 (when factoring the replacement of the existing one mill levy during 2007).

Hussey said in his letter to the trustees that he hopes the information is valuable to them in evaluating the cost of providing emergency services to northern Union Township, and he hopes to meet with the trustees in the near future.

None of the trustees commented on Hussey's letter Monday night, although Trustee Jack Justice said he was certain the Granville Township Fire Department is willing to work with Union Township to negotiate a new contract.

In other township news:

• The refurbishment of a township firetruck is delayed until the first week of February, but Trustee John Slater said it should be worth the wait. He and Hebron Fire Chief Randy Weekly traveled to Renewed Performance, Inc. in Tipton, Indiana, where the company is completing an $82,000 refitof the firetruck. The refitis expected to extend the life of the truck by 15 to 20 years. Slater and Weekly visited Tipton to check on the refit's progress.

"It'll be like new," said Slater. He said Renewed Performance had an emergency project to complete, which put the company a week behind on all its other projects, including the Union Township truck. The good news is that the overall condition of the truck is very good and the work is on budget, said Slater.

• Justice said load limits will be reduced by 50 percent on Refugee, Beaver Run, Blacks, and James roads, east of Ohio 37.

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