Fire contract talks start
UNION TOWNSHIP – Trustees have started talking with the Village of Hebron about the contract for fire and EMS service to the unincorporated portions of the township south of the Columbus & Ohio River railroad.
A two-year contracts expires at the end of this year. Currently, Union Township pays 60 percent of the Hebron department’s operating expenses, while the township receives 100 percent of the net revenue from EMS billing from patient transports in the contract area. The township uses some of that revenue to offset its payments to Hebron.
Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason and Council Safety Committee members have met once with Trustee Rick Black, Township Administrator Paula Greene, and Township Fiscal Officer Jessica Slater. Mason said he was told that township officials do not anticipate having any more money to offer Hebron for services beyond what the township’s two fire levies generate, less the $80,000 a year the township is paying to the Granville Township Fire Department to cover the area north of the railroad.
Licking County Deputy Auditor Cindy Haas said Union Township’s 1.8 mills and 1.5 mills levies generate a total of $505,631. Mason said the township’s offer was roughly $420,000 per year, although currently the township is paying roughly $650,000 per year for fire and EMS services. “We’re taking the approach, if that’s all you have, how can we work around that?” he said. “It’s early.” Mason was clear that neither the village nor the township has agreed to anything yet and discussions are in the earliest phase.
Black said Wednesday that the township has been dipping into its general fund to cover the existing $650,000 contract and there’s simply no general fund money left to use toward the next contract with Hebron. Black said general fund money can be used toward fire and EMS service, but, “It shouldn’t be.” He said the former township fiscal officer led the trustees to believe the township had more money than it did, and if trustees were aware that general fund money would be used toward the existing contract, they may not have agreed to it.
Black added that the township has lost more than $100,000 in state reimbursement funds. “What can I say?” he said. Black said the township simply can’t afford to continue paying Hebron what it has been paying.
Black said trustees would meet with township homeowners associations to ask residents how they would like to see the situation handled and whether there is support for additional fire levy millage.
In other township news:
• Black said Licking County Planning Commission Director Gerald Newton told him that upon further consideration, a county site review is not necessary for a new salt bin, which trustees are eager to construct with the winter season approaching. “I’m glad for the relief,” said Black, who said previously that a site review would be costly for the township and would delay construction.
He said Newton took a “common sense” approach to the situation, acknowledging that a salt bin would disturb very little of the township complex’ sevenacre site, and would be placed far away from any streams or bodies of water. Black said the township is currently putting a bid package together for construction and estimates the salt bin will cost $75,000 or more. “There’s a lot of concrete in that,” he said.