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Guest column: It’s the morning after

Dear friends and ieighbors, this is the morning after….and we can all breathe a sigh of relief!

Over the course of the past several days many of us have been unwitting participants in a drama that if we had a choice we would ask not to be a part of! On one hand I am saddened by what took place and the surprise that we all felt when the news that the Millersport Fire/EMS contract could be canceled. We were literally within an eyelash of that becoming a reality. What could have resulted would have been the loss of an institution (that was formed in 1926); of service and security to a community that stretches now across the north half of Walnut Twp. including, Millersport, the west, north and south banks of Buckeye Lake up through the charming community of Fairfield Beach.

Millersport Fire Department now lead by Chief Bill Yates has served with distinction and is a department that truly has a heart and is an integral part of the soul of the community. Not only to the north part of the Township but to those surrounding areas of the Lake they serve through mutual aid like; Buckeye Lake, Thurston, Pleasantville Thorn Twp. and over into the Basil Joint Fire District service area. BUT, in the end we achieved together, what may have never happened without these events unfolding the way they did. At the conclusion of the meeting we walked away with a commitment from the Walnut Twp. Board of Trustees that includes myself, Ralph Zollinger and Sonny (Alan) Dupler and the Millersport Council and Mayor Dean Severance to renegotiate the Millersport Fire Contract for a four year period with the help of a third party arbitrator whose decision will be binding upon all parties. Truly a method that takes much of the politics and favoritism out of the equation, which is one reason I am for the concept of a Joint Fire District. However, this discussion is for another day and year. Thank you, Sonny and Ralph for listening to our constituents, our friends and neighbors and thank you, all of the north half of Walnut Twp that is served by the Millersport FD for putting up with politics and a real scare.

Two weeks ago no one would have known or ever imagined that we would be where we are this morning. Now there is hope for a fair and equitable distribution of Fire funds and a fair contract with the Village of Millersport and the Millersport FD. Do not take this to mean it will be easy to hammer out a final contract with Millersport and the trustees and to determine the fair split of funding for the Millersport FD and the Thurston-Walnut FD. But we will enter into this with an open mind and an attitude of funding each FD so that there is equal coverage and consideration given to every square mile of the Township, apart from politics. We will also strive to have all questions of spending scrutinized.

I want to recognize an even more unwitting participant in this and that is Thurston Village who has an equal tradition of pride, dependability and service to the south half of the Township. You have faithfully and tirelessly served the Township and for the lion’s share of the time you have given of your time and talents through volunteering and many of you still do to this day. Our Chief, Jim Hite has served as a volunteer chief and only until this year was given a small stipend for his faithful service. We also need not forget the Fire Association who has served “millions” of pancakes over the years to put fire trucks on the road and turnout gear on the backs of the Village Fathers. Thank you volunteers, you are the backbone and reason the department is in existence. Thurston Village Council and Mayor Mary Boring, thank you for your partnership with the Thurston-Walnut FD. With the negotiation of the Millersport contract and the entire Township Fire Budget with a third party arbitrator you can also be assured your interests are equally and fairly protected.

Thurston, you were thrust into this great drama because of a set of circumstances that were presented to you. I believe that your only desire is and was, to provide safety and security to the Township. Had the Millersport contract been cancelled, serving the entire Township with a short planning window of 60 days and with no plan of where you would operate from to cover the north or what equipment or personnel you would have at your disposal would have been an unimaginable task! Thank you for your willingness and desire to fulfill your calling of service and protection!!

I will be asking each FD to provide a proposed budget in the exact same format that clearly shows what their needs are for now and into the future. As with many things we have wish lists and that is what they are. Some wishes will come true in 2011 and some may need to be fulfilled a little while into the future. Together, we will look at these things with the arbitrator. Do not give up hope and look toward the goal of serving and protecting all residents together!

I want to give brief mention to 18 residents across the Township that answered my call to join an informal focus group to look at what options were for consolidating the fire departments in Walnut Twp. Along with Billy Phillips, Walnut Township Fire Ombudsman who helped us in an unofficial capacity and who also serves as Chair of the Basil Joint Fire District Fire Board. We had several meetings and the overwhelming conclusion of the group was that a Joint Fire District would serve Walnut Twp. best for now and years to come. Removing politics from the fire service equation was a huge factor for making this choice along with economy of scale. If you want to see my report on our conclusions, please email the Township Office at and we will send that to you via email or you may pick up a copy at our office, M-F, 9A-1P. As already noted, we will allow the “fire to cool down” before we take up this topic for discussion again as we seek your valuable input.

To Mr. Dupler and Zollinger: Together, we came to agreement on what is best for Walnut Twp. I look forward to working with you over the next several weeks to complete what we started last night. With an open mind and the safety and security of our Township as our focus, we will indeed do what is right. I know from talking with you both that you care passionately about Walnut Twp. You have dedicated a large portion of your lives to serving us. I look forward to the days ahead learning from you and working with you both!

In conclusion, it is the faithfulness of God who knows all and sees all that I give credit for the outcome last night. Also, I want to mention the faithfulness of those who pray on a regular basis for Walnut Twp and the Board. Special thanks to Lisa Milenovic, who I have never met except one brief phone call a year ago, who called me Monday morning to say she was praying for me and the Board and the meeting last night. And for my wife Karen who prays for me daily and the dozens of Tina’s and Steve Bushes who are faithful to ask Jesus Christ to give the Township Trustees the wisdom to make the right decisions and choices that affect the entire community.

I adopted the Ohio, State Motto as my campaign slogan and it is true, “With God ALL Things are Possible”!! Be of good cheer, look with hopeful anticipation of what we can do when we work together serving one another.

May God Bless Walnut Twp. and the USA, the great land we live in.

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