2013-08-03 / News

Fire contract talks off to a slow start

By Charles Prince

HEBRON – Village of Hebron officials wanted to start discussing the 2014 fire contract with Union Township in May. Trustees opted to stick with the June 2013 start date outlined in the 2013 contract. They finally met July 29.

Contract talks are being overshadowed by the Licking County Budget Commission’s demand that the boundaries between townships and incorporated areas be conformed. That means that Buckeye Lake and Hebron either secede from the township, giving up their voting privileges for township officials and their ability to serve in those offices OR they begin voting on and paying township tax levies if enacted. Decisions must be made by August 30.

If voters approve Union Township’s proposed additional 1.5 mill fire levy, it would raise about $237,000 a year if it only applied to the unincorporated areas. However, it could raise nearly $390,000 a year if it was also collected in the Villages of Buckeye Lake and Hebron.

Trustee President Rick Black is fearful that Buckeye Lake and Hebron voters would reject the new levy. Property owners there are already paying more (5 mills in Buckeye Lake and 6 mills in Hebron) compared to the 3.8 mills in Union Township.

Buckeye Lake’s mayor, council president, Safety Committee chair plus a council member and a fire captain were unexpected observers at the meeting. Council President Charlene Hayden believes that voting on the township levy would “probably cause both levies to fail.”

Black insists that levy revenue from the Granville Township service area be given to Granville. He said about $40,000 of Granville area generated revenue is going to Hebron now.

If the new levy would be just collected in the unincorporated areas, $66,000 would go to Granville and $168,000 to Hebron. Union Township unilaterally cut its contribution for 2013 by about $220,000 so its insistence on earmarking would still leave Hebron short some $50,000 of where it was in 2012 even if the additional levy is approved.

Hebron council member Jim Friend pointed out that so far this year Granville Township has only made 28 runs into Union Township. Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason added that Hebron provided mutual aid on eight of the runs.

Both he and Hebron Village Administrator Ralph Wise suggested forming a fire district. “Why not become a fire district and build a fire station out there (along Ohio 37)?” Mason asked. Black said Granville service area residents don’t want a new station; they just want Granville service.

Black also said trustees would not use general revenue funds for fire protection. Hebron is using about $250,000 in general revenue to offset the township’s cut this year.

No future meetings are scheduled. Black requested two weeks notice.

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