2013-06-08 / News

Union Township is considering additional fire levy

By Scott Rawdon

UNION TOWNSHIP – Township residents will likely see an additional fire levy on the Nov. 5 ballot, although Union Township Trustee President Rick Black said trustees aren’t certain yet what the millage will be. “We don’t know how big yet,” he said.

Black said trustees have a lot to consider, because voters in the northern area of the township, served by the Granville Township Fire Department want their fire levy taxes to go to Granville. Currently about a third of it goes to Hebron, whose fire department serves the portion of the township south of the railroad tracks.

Black said the arrangement predates him as a trustee. He said roughly a third of the township’s voters live in the area Granville serves, and voter turnout is very high in that area.

Black said currently Union Township has a 1.8 mill levy that collects $279,282, and a 1.5 mill levy that collects $227,847. He said an additional mill would generate $158,451; 1.5 mills would generate $237,677; five mills would generate $792,257; and eight mills would generate $1,267,611.

Black said Union Township’s total valuation is $156,702,020. Of that total, $44,284,120 is in the Granville service area, and $112,417,900 is in Hebron’s service area.

In a related issue, Black said he attended a meeting May 30 at Heath Municipal Building where representatives from Hebron, Buckeye Lake, Heath, and Union, Licking, and Granville townships listened to a presentation by Zashin & Rich Co. LPA attorney Jonathan Downes on a fire district’s basic structure.

Black said while the entities are interested enough in a fire district to ask plenty of questions, “It’s going to have some big stumbling blocks.” For example, he said that once a district is formed, each entity has to vote on a levy. “Each entity has to pass the levy,” he said, “and if one doesn’t, you’re in trouble.”

Also, Black said he wants to know each entities indebtedness before becoming part of a district, because once the district is formed, each entity takes on each other’s debt, as well as assets.

He said Downes suggested forming an exploratory committee that would include two representatives from each entity, and Union Township is willing to take part in that. And, Hebron is applying for a Local Government Innovation Grant to fund a fire district feasibility study and Union Township will partner with Hebron to help secure the grant. “We have nothing to lose by applying for the grant,” said Black.

According to Downes’ report, a fire district’s benefits include revenue and expenses distributed over a larger area, greater availability of trained personnel, increased retention of trained employees, increased flexibility in staffing, shorter response times, and elimination of redundant or duplicate resources and staff, among other benefits.

However, Downes said concerns include not much cost savings up front, in fact costs may increase, individual departments would lose their identities and face cultural differences, and there would be concerns with the ability to recruit enough part-time and auxiliary personnel.

“There’s no pattern as to what a fire district should look like,” said Black. He said people are asking lots of questions about a district and there are mixed views of how one should work. “It’ll happen when it happens,” said Black.

In other township news:

• Street Department Supervisor Dave Cable said the township secured roughly $17,300 in two federal Township Corridor Systematic Signage grants to replace or upgrade safety signage within the township. “That’ll buy quite a few signs,” said Black, adding that the township has to rotate signs to meet new reflectivity standards.

• Trustee John Slater said he would use his own excavation equipment to ready a site to construct a 40’ x 60’ salt bin, and hopes to begin work soon. Trustees awarded Quality Excavation and Construction with the bid to build the $91,800 project.

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