2009-12-05 / News

Dupler, Zollinger backtrack on fire contract

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT – For Walnut Township Trustees Sonny Dupler and Ralph Zollinger it was ‘that was then and this is now’ when they discussed the proposed fire contract with the Village of Millersport at their Nov. 24 meeting.

Dupler opened the issue by stating it would be the exact same contract as the last three years with a few changes. “Basic contract is the same,” he said. Dupler said Millersport would receive 60 percent of the net designated fire levy revenues, up from the current 56.5 percent, but down from the 65 percent Millersport requested. Millersport would be required to staff the Fairfield Beach substation 24/7 with two paramedics/EMT’s up from the current 12/7 requirement. The agreement would be for one year.

Dupler moved to approve the contract. “Can we talk about it first?” Trustee Wally Gabriel asked. He asked why several changes had been made to the trustees’ position after they had agreed he should present it to village council members at their Oct. 13 meeting.

For example, all three trustees at their Oct. 13 morning meeting agreed with Gabriel’s suggestion that Millersport’s proposed four year term be reduced to three years to get it out of the ‘limelight of the election.’ Trustees had also agreed to accept Millersport’s proposal to push back the due date for monthly reports from the 15th to the 20th. That would allow the village to include bills approved for payment at their monthly meeting even when the meeting was as late as the 14th. For their part, village council members agreed to a three-year term and to drop the 5¢ per copy fee for printed material.

Zollinger said he now favored a one year contract to “give us time to reorganize all three into one unit,” either as a fire district or a township fire department.

Several residents asked if the existing vague language concerning payment will be retained. Dupler said it is the same language. “Is it 60 percent of what’s collected?” Deane Maughmer asked. “It is a matter of interpretation,” Dupler told him. The contract calls for quarterly payments which really aren’t quarterly since the first payment isn’t made until April 24. Payments are made four times a year.

The Millersport contract proposal cleared up any confusion about how payments are to be calculated by specifying that the payment be their percentage allocation of revenues received by the township. Trustees, primarily at Dupler’s insistence, have been withholding some of their fire levy receipts in an attempt to even out the four payments over the contract year, while earning interest for the township’s general fund. Dupler conceded that point at the Oct. 13 meeting, noting “It’s not worth it (withholding payment) at one percent (interest).” That concession was forgotten by Nov. 24.

Zollinger then seconded Dupler’s motion. The contract was approved 2-1 with Gabriel dissenting.

MIllersport Fire Chief Bill Yates, who had earlier given trustees an extensive report, asked how much the county auditor’s office had certified in income from the four permanent fire levies for next year. Fiscal officer Pauline Ety said the certification is $948,000.

That means $942,000 should be available to the two fire departments after taking out the fire ombudsman’s $6,000 annual salary. After confirming that the township’s contract with the Thurston-Walnut Township Fire Department is $412,000 next year, Yates tried to ask how Thurston could get $412,000 and Millersport $565,200 (60 percent of $942,000) out of $942,000. Dupler told Yates to be quiet since he hadn’t signed in. As Yates asked about the $35,200 shortage coming out of the township’s fire fund carryover, Dupler continued to try to shut him up. “I project about a $250,000 carryover,” Ety said. She explained that in the past the carryover had been held for capital purchases like a new truck or medic. Millersport Firefighter Pat Redd asked, “When was the last time the carryover was given to a department?” “That’s a good question,” Ety responded.

In other business Tuesday night, trustees rescinded a Nov. 10 resolution transferring $22,310.87 of carryover from the county engineer for culvert work to Deep Cut Road for guardrails. “It’s not feasible,” Dupler said. Guardrails are too costly. The carryover was then transferred to the Cherry Lane improvement project.

Trustees unanimously agreed to send a letter requesting a cost estimate from Jones Cochenour to conduct an audit of run times from the Fairfield Beach, Millersport and Thurston fire stations. Zollinger and Dupler had meet with the firm on Nov. 18 in an apparently illegal meeting.

Yates reported that Millersport had made 851 runs year to date, with 140 of them made from the Fairfield Beach substation.

He also asked Dupler how the department could cut $10,000 from their fuel cost since they have only spent $9,399.46 through October. Dupler had claimed Nov. 10 that Millersport could save $10,000 in “excess fuel expenses” caused by “running up and down the road.”

Trustees also unanimously approved three identical contracts for the sale of salt to the Villages of Millersport, Pleasantville and Thurston. The price is $63.07 per ton picked up at the township garage. Last year the township paid $57 per ton for salt. Road supervisor Randy Kemmerer said this year’s purchase contract is for 2,000 tons. Total usage last winter was 1,400 tons.

Trustees also agreed to send township road worker and parks commissioner Tim Morris to a two-day grant writing workshop in Toledo.

Trustees will maintain their regular meeting schedule this month – 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8 and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Millersport Village Council will review the fire contract at its 7 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

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