2008-01-26 / News

Trustees reach agreement with Granville Township

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON- Union Township Trustees may or may not be breathing a sigh of relief after reaching an agreement for emergency services with the Granville Township Fire Department.

The good news for the trustees is that Granville fireagreed to accept $50,000 per year to provide service to the area of Union Township north of the CSX railroad. The bad news is, last year the township only paid $18,000 for the same service, and only $14,000 for prior years.

The price hike came about when new Granville Township Fire Chief Jeff Hussey was reviewing his department's financial needs and contractual practices. He determined that Union Township was paying far less than other townships currently contracting for emergency service with Granville fire.

Hussey sent a letter to the trustees explaining the situation and that his department's expenses have significantly increased recently. He sent several scenarios for the trustees' consideration with several different ways to charge Union Township-potential annual totals ranged from $65,000 to more than $150,000. So, with that in mind, the trustees were somewhat relieved that Granville Township accepted the trustees' $50,000 offer during Monday night's regularly scheduled trustees' meeting, but they were still shell-shocked about the $32,000 increase over last year.

"We're going to have to do some real soul searching in the next year," said Trustee Jack Justice. He said Union Township receives outstanding service from Granville Fire, but now wonders if it's cost effective. Considering Granville makes about 52 runs into Union Township per year, the contract works out to nearly $1,000 per run. Justice said the trustees would look for a less expensive alternative, if one exists.

"We're looking at this as a matter of fairness," said Granville Township Clerk Norm Kennedy. "Fifty thousand is acceptable to us this year." He said Granville fireis reviewing all of its contracts and it will monitor its 2008 expenses; a 2009 contract with Granville firemay be even more expensive. "We want to work with you on this," he said, adding that providing emergency services to anyone "is not cheap."

Kennedy explained that the relationship between Union Township and Granville Fire began when there were two parallel CSX railroad lines through the township. Both lines were busy and trains often blocked emergency vehicles. Granville Fire simply began covering the area north of the railroad for that reason. Over the years, one set of tracks was removed and train traffic diminished, but the CSX line is becoming busier.

Justice said Union Township used to send the private Granville Fire Department a nominal fee as a "courtesy" for covering the township's northern section. That courtesy fee eventually became a contract. He said the $50,000 is coming from the township's general fund and may affect the township's ability to make capital improvements this year.

Union Township has already approved a 2008 contract with Hebron Fire for $543,602. Hebron Fire made about 500 EMS runs into Union Township (not into a municipality) last year. The trustees expect the price of the Hebron contract to rise in the upcoming years.

The trustees intend to meet with William M. Kramer of Cincinnati's Kramer and Associates. Kramer is a fireservice consultant whom the trustees hope can help Union Township findless expensive alternatives for fireservice.

In other township news:

• The trustees voted unanimously to retain Trustee John Slater as president and Justice as vice president of the trustee board for 2008.

• Slater said the township is not able to help the Buckeye Lake Eagles pay for a sewer tap fee, particularly after paying $50,000 to Granville fire. Previously, Eagles Trustee Larry Kauffman said the club may install a Licking County public sewer line to the tune of $92,000, including a $62,000 capacity fee. Kaufman said the club's septic system is aging and may need to be upgraded. However, the Environmental Protection Agency expects the Eagles club to abandon its septic system and tie onto the public line if any change is made to the existing septic system. Eagles members are particularly upset about being asked to pay $11,000 to run a sewer line beneath Ohio 37 to attach to the public line. Eagles members asked for financial assistance from the township. Slater said the trustees offered as much assistance as they could other than financial, but offering financial assistance is not an option.

• Trustee Jessie Ours said the State of Ohio expanded its Homestead exemption. According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, last year, Governor Ted Strickland signed into law a new, expanded homestead exemption that provides additional property tax relief to qualified senior citizens and permanently and totally disabled Ohioans.

Previously, most senior citizens and disabled Ohioans were excluded from the Homestead Exemption because of income tests. The new exemption offers eligible homeowners, regardless of income, the opportunity to shield up to $25,000 of the market value of their homestead (a dwelling and up to one acre of land) from property taxation. For example, if a home is valued at $100,000, the property tax will generally be billed as if the home were valued at $75,000.

Seniors and disabled Ohioans who weren't previously eligible must apply with their local county auditor in order to take advantage of the homestead exemption, which saves the typical homeowner about $400 per year. This year, county auditors will be accepting applications from Jan. 8 through June 2.

Trustees' next meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4 at the township garage in Hebron.

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