Crowd helps Dupler keep fire contract commitment
MILLERSPORT – Maybe it just was “food for thought” as Walnut Township Trustee President Sonny Dupler characterized his agenda item to “amend motion of 4-year contract and binding arbitrator from 10/5 meeting.”
More likely it was the nearly 100 residents that turned out on short notice Tuesday night to make sure Dupler didn’t try to convince Trustee Ralph Zollinger to help him back out of their unanimous October 5 agreement that kept it intact.
Several hundred township residents attended an Oct. 5 special meeting on the township’s contract with the Millersport Fire Department. A week earlier, Dupler had proposed terminating the contract a couple of weeks before its year-end expiration and setting up a township fire department.
Residents didn’t want to see an 84-year-old fire department with a long history of excellent service to the community cast aside. They made it clear at the Oct. 5 meeting that they favored continuing the long-standing contract relationship with the township as opposed to a township department or a joint fire district. Trustees unanimously agreed to reach a four-year contract with the village and accepted binding arbitration if necessary.
There were some hints at the trustees’ Oct. 12 regular meeting that Dupler might not be fully committed to the Oct. 5 agreement. He proposed that trustees accept Thurston’s $412,000 budget proposal for 2011. Approval would have severely limited the resources available for the Millersport contract and tied the arbitrator’s hands as well. Dupler also seemed to agree with Andy Wolfe’s comments questioning the four-year contract term and the use of an arbitrator.
Dupler had Tuesday night’s crowd wondering where he was headed when he started talking about the fire contract.
“I’ve given a lot of thought to this,” he started out. Why do we give Millersport a percentage of the levy revenues received – 60 percent this year, while Thurston gets a specific amount. “Why don’t we designate an amount for each?” he asked. That’s a question that Millersport officials have asked for several years. If revenues fall below estimates ,Millersport takes a hit while Thurston is unaffected.
Fire levy revenues were certified at $948,000 this year and are expected to increase to $994,000 next year. Dupler, in an about face from his Sept. 28 statement justifying the contract cancellation, said the township will receive more money in 2010 than certified. “It always happened in the past.”
He also suggested that payment dates revert to the past practice of two large payments a year – April and September with a much smaller December payment to account for late tax payments.
Pastor Steven Bush tried several times to extract a promise from Dupler that nothing will derail the process agreed to on Oct. 5. “We don’t want to be ambushed again,” Dina Reasoner added.
“Do we really want a four year contract?” Dupler asked. The crowd quickly answered with a loud “yes.” “Do we really want an arbitrator?” he asked.
“What’s so tough about that?” Millersport council member Gary Matheny asked. “That’s what we agree on,” Dupler acknowledged.
“Make a promise you won’t cause more trouble,” Tory Wolfe told Dupler. “Just leave it alone and quit getting Ralph to do bad things.”
In other business, trustees set two special meetings to consider recommendations from the township zoning commission. The first is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 17, to consider the commission’s recommendation that the sixth draft of the rewrite of the township’s zoning resolution be approved.
The second meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 18, to consider the commission’s recommendation that Jerry and Barbara Mock’s request to rezone approximately 61 acres just west of Ohio 37 from I-1 to I-2 zoning be rejected. The Mocks want to build a 32 acre, 120 foot high C&DD landfill on the site. They need I-2 zoning or an appellant court decision that Ohio’s C&DD landfill regulations preempt local zoning. Both meetings will be held at the township office.
Trustees’ next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at the township office.