2009-01-10 / News

Both sides sign fire contract

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - Both Walnut Township Trustees and Village of Millersport officials have now signed a slightly revised contract for fire/EMS services in 2009.

The parties could not agreed late last month over the terms which the Millersport Fire Department would provide fire/EMS services to the northern portion of the township.

For the second year in a row, trustees cut the Millersport Fire Department's share of the fire levy revenue. Trustees sent the village a contract allocating 56.5 percent of the fire levy revenue, a 13 percentage reduction from the department's 65 percent share in 2007. Last year Millersport received 60 percent. Millersport makes about 70 percent of all emergency runs in the township.

Millersport presented a counterproposal requesting a return to the 65 percent allocation, a revised termination clause, and equitable treatment. The village objects to the extensive reporting and documentation requirements imposed on them, but not the Thurston/Walnut Township Fire Department. The village also said it was illogical to allocate a fixed sum - $412,000 - to Thurston, while making the village's allocation on a percentage basis. That means any shortfall in real estate tax collection will fall totally on the Millersport Fire Department.

Millersport mounted a last minute "Hail Mary" legal challenge that was settled out of court on Dec. 30 after trustees made a very minor concession. Trustees agreed to reduce the term from three years to one. In reality, it is just a 60 day contract anyway, since either party may terminate it upon 60 days written notice. Millersport wanted that revised to 90 days written notice and requiring "just cause" for termination.

Trustees unanimously approved the revised contract Dec. 31. Several invitations from Trustee President Ralph Zollinger to comment to the nearly two dozen present for the special meeting drew dead silence.

Millersport Council members spent nearly an hour in executive session with their attorney Tuesday night before unanimously approving the contract.

"We really struggled with signing this contract," Mayor Dean Severance said. "Our main concern is lives and protection of property," council member Dave Levacy explained.

Millersport Fire Chief Bill Yates said 24/7 coverage at the Millersport station and 12/7 coverage at Fairfield Beach will be maintained. Plans to go to 24/7 at Fairfield Beach will be scrapped and equipment upgrades, such as purchasing more advanced heart monitors, will have to wait.

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