2013-08-31 / News

Buckeye Lake secedes from township

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE – Tuesday morning, Licking County Commissioners officially approved Buckeye Lake Village’s request to secede from Union Township, freeing both the village and the township to move forward with November fire levies.

The Licking County Budget Commission wants the boundaries between townships and incorporated areas 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 needed be made by Aug. 30. While Buckeye Lake Village scrambled to secede by the deadline, Hebron has no plans to do so.

Monday night, Buckeye Lake Village Council members unanimously approved legislation for secession, which county commissioners approved the next morning.

“The downside is we have no say in Union Township,” said council member Clay Carroll. On the other hand, the village wouldn’t be obligated to pay for both the village and township fire levies. Village and township officials were concerned if voters were faced with approving two fire levies – the township has a 1.5-mill additional levy on the ballot and Buckeye Lake has a 5-mill renewal levy – they would vote for neither. In that case, there would’ve been a good chance that both levies would fail decisively. “Weighing the two, (secession) only seems to make sense,” he said. “It seems to be almost a no-brainer.”

Union Township Trustee President Rick Black attended Monday night’s council meeting.

“We were dealt something that no one anticipated,” he said. “The last thing we wanted to do was add another levy to Buckeye Lake. We’re making the best of the situation, but the township is pretty much powerless in all of this.”

“This is a real act of cooperation between the village and township,” said Commissioner Tim Bubb Tuesday. “We clearly applaud the efforts of the village.”

Black said Tuesday that trustees have no plans to pull the township fire levy from the November ballot, now that the situation with Buckeye Lake Village is resolved. “It’s going forward,” he said of the levy. “Just morally, we couldn’t have interfered with Buckeye Lake’s levy.”

Part of the solution was to create a “paper township” called Buckeye Lake Township, whose borders mirror Buckeye Lake Village’s. Buckeye Lake Village Solicitor Richard “Butch” Bindley explained that Buckeye Lake Township is merely a legal paperwork formality, and there will be no Buckeye Lake Township trustees, employees, or services. It only exists on the books.

In other village news:

• Eileen Scarrett-Dudgeon, CEO of Newark’s Medbill Resources Corporation, explained to council members the details of “soft billing” for EMS services as a method of generating income for the Buckeye Lake Fire Department. “This has not been done in haste,” she said.

“This has been discussed for many, many years,” said council member Arletta Ruton, who added that the Millersport and Hebron fire departments soft bill as well. Council members approved EMS billing May 28. Soft billing means Buckeye Lake will accept whatever it receives from Medicare, Medicaid or insurance companies for patient transports. There’s no effort to collect amounts not paid by insurance or charges for uninsured residents.

The intent is to raise additional revenue for the department. Council President Charlene Hayden said the billing may generate enough revenue to keep the village from having to increase fire levy millage, but it cannot replace fire levy revenue.

Scarrett-Dudgeon said in soft billing the co-pay amount for Medicare reimbursements would be billed to the secondary insurance, but not billed to the patient. Any balance would be written off, and not sent to a collection agency. She said she may attend the next Buckeye Lake Fire Department monthly meeting, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. at the fire department.

• Resident Bonnie Mansfield told council members Monday night that they should require residents to spay or neuter cats. “I am forming an army of citizens who are going to come here and demand this,” she said, adding that she’s also creating a Buckeye Lake humane society. “We’ve got to do something,” said Mansfield. “There are more cats now than I think there ever was. I really want you to consider it.”

“The problem is not going to go away,” said resident Betty James. However, she said she wasn’t sure how a mandatory spay and neuter law would be enforced. James said she is involved with trying to form a trap, neuter, and return group for the area’s feral cats.

Buckeye Lake Parks and Recreation Commission chair Marianne Perine commended Mansfield for addressing the “severe, severe problem that we have” in Buckeye Lake Village. “There are a lot of things that can be done,” she said, including landlords requiring tenants to spay or neuter pets.

“Nobody has the right to crank out cat after cat for the rest of us to take care of,” said Mansfield.

Carroll said he worked with Mansfield to create some legislation to address Buckeye

Lake’s feral cats, but kept running into legal walls. “We hit a lot of resistance,” he said. Carroll said it may be time to revisit trying to create some legislation to control feral cats.

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