2008-10-11 / News

Township, village half way to new fire contract

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - Walnut Township Trustees and Millersport officials reached agreement September 30 on one of the two major issues for a new fire/EMS services contract.

Millersport officials have been pushing all year for an early agreement on the village's contract to supply fire/EMS services for most of the township. The current one-year contract expires December 31. Millersport officials suggested last week's joint meeting and trustees agreed.

Mayor Dean Severance presented a draft contract to trustees that included a four-year term and a 65 percent share of the township's fire levy revenue. Millersport had previously received 65 percent until trustees cut it to 60 percent for the current contract.

Severance said the longer term is necessary to streamline operations and save the taxpayers' money that's been spent on attorneys to work out the terms for the last two one-year contracts. "We used to have four year contracts," Severance explained.

Trustee President Ralph Zollinger immediately suggested a two-year contract while fiscal officer Pauline Ety noted that the draft lacked a lot of the detail included in the last two contracts. Trustee Wally Gabriel said the new contract needs to specify the staffing requirements - number of personnel and hours - that are in the current contract. Village officials didn't object.

"I think the village can live with a three year contract," Severance offered. "We can plan and look to the future."

Trustee Sonny Dupler doesn't want to go back to the 65 percent allocation for the Millersport Fire Department. "If we were to go back to 65 percent, we couldn't fund Thurston at all," he claimed. "It is not going to happen at all."

Council member Paul Detty asked trustees about their funding formula. "To get equal service you have to share the monies," Dupler said. "We're not going to give it all to you and leave them high and dry."

"We make more than 70 percent of the runs," Severance told trustees.

"They are running on volunteers down there," Dupler said. Thurston has three paid personnel working daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thurston Lt. Jamie Carroll said one person is paid to work from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and then sleeps at the station, but isn't paid for that time unless there is a run. He said it would cost an additional $57,000 a year to hire one person to cover 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Most discussion focused on the length of the contract. Dupler said he was concerned about possibly sticking two new trustees with a contract. Both Dupler and Gabriel face voters next November. "If Wally and I don't get in, we're sticking the new guys with a contract they might not like," Dupler explained.

Severance said a three-year contract demonstrated that both sides are working together. He believes it would make it easier to get voters to approve the one mill levy that will be up next year. The township's five other mills for fire protection/EMS services are now permanent.

Gabriel suggested a two-year term with an automatic renewal if neither party objects by Oct. 1, 2010. Millersport officials still favor a straight three-year contract.

Resident Karen Bergum asked about the cost per run for each department. "It's a good idea, but it just doesn't compute," Dupler told her. Gabriel said Millersport makes more runs, specifically pointing out the mutual aid runs to Buckeye Lake. More runs brings down the cost per run, Gabriel said.

Millersport's proposed contract included a 360-day cancellation clause, allowing either party to cancel it before it runs its full term by providing 360 days written notice. The current contract has a 60 day cancellation clause and earlier contracts specified a 90-day notice. Dupler favors keeping the 60-day notice.

Efforts to get a commitment from trustees on the allocation percentage were turned back. Gabriel wants to look at projections from both departments before setting the allocation. Dupler told Severance don't try to put words in his mouth after Severance suggested agreement on a three-year contract with a 60 percent minimum allocation for Millersport. Council member Charles Mesko asked specifically if all three

accept three years

trustees were in agreement for a three year contract term. Each answered "yes."

The next step is the most difficult one - deciding how to allocate the $900,000 that the county auditor's office expects the township to collect next year from its fire levies. No meetings have been set to address that issue.

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