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Hebron proposes changes to fire contract

UNION TOWNSHIP – Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason believes the Village Council members could likely live with Union Township’s offer of a $420,000 fire contract for 2014 – same as the 2013 contract – but will Union Township Trustees accept Hebron’s changes to the trustees’ proposal?

Monday night, trustees opted to wait to discuss the proposed revisions Mason presented to them. Previously, trustee President Rick Black said nothing’s really changed economically for Union Township since last year, so there’s really no way the township can offer Hebron more money for a 2014 fire contract.

Black said if voters approve a 1.5 mill additional fire levy Nov. 5, trustees may be willing to reopen the contract. Otherwise, $420,000 is all the township can afford.

Trustees paid $420,000 to the Village of Hebron for fire and EMS services in 2013 after paying roughly $625,000 in 2012. The township’s typical 60 percent share of operating expenses was estimated at $645,000 in 2013.

The township’s two fire levies totaling 3.3 mills bring in about $505,631 per year with $80,000 earmarked for the township’s contract with the Granville Township Fire Department, which services the portion of the township north of the railroad.

Trustees blamed the former fiscal officer for leading them to believe the township had more money than it did. However, the township’s most recent audit by the State Auditor’s Office did not absolve them of blame for the township’s financial difficulties. The audit included 10 findings and stated “proper Board monitoring was not performed…”

Hebron council members reluctantly approved the 2013 contract when Mason broke a 3-3 tie vote.

“ We’re okay with the $420,000,” said Mason Tuesday. But, Mason said he was unhappy that trustees simply sent the Hebron Village Council a signed contract without deeper discussion. “Let’s discuss; let’s negotiate,” said Mason. He said village solicitor

Wes Untied found some items in the trustees’ proposed contract that “are not acceptable in their present state” and he suggested revisions.

“Here are some of the things we’d like to see in the contract,” said Mason.

First, Untied suggested that the township and village discuss any repair of township owned fire equipment that costs more than $5,000. If a mutual agreement can’t be reached, the village would return the equipment to the township. “It’s tough for Hebron to commit to repair township equipment” with the reduced amount the township is paying to the village, said Mason. “We shouldn’t be responsible for more than $5,000.”

Next, Untied said the township should have no say in how the village uses its EMS billing revenue. According to a letter Untied sent to the township and its legal counsel, “The village is the contract provider. It is (the village’s) earnings and (the village) has the right to dictate the use of said funds. While it likely would be used for fire/EMS operating, it is not the township’s place to dictate use. Additionally, said provision is not in the agreement with Granville Township.”

Mason said trustees can’t tell Hebron how to spend EMS billing revenue generated from runs in Union Township.

Untied said the contract should include language stating that Hebron should proportionally receive any additional revenue that Granville Township receives. In other words, if Granville Township receives a 20 percent increase in payment, for example, Hebron should automatically receive a 20 percent increase as well.

Untied said the township should be assessed a 10 percent penalty for late payments. Mason said the township has been late in the past and the village covered for it. However, the contract’s reduced income also reduces the village’s ability to cover late payments.

Untied said if the township’s additional 1.5 mill levy is approved Nov. 5, the contract should obligate the trustees to meet with the village within 30 days of the board of elections certifying the election results to renegotiate the township’s payment for Hebron’s services.

“Meeting ‘sometime’ (to renegotiate) is not an acceptable time to meet,” said Mason.

Finally, Untied said the contract should require the township to provide an annual appraisal of its fire equipment to be provided to the village on or before Jan. 1 of each year.

“We’ve asked for (an appraisal) for years and years,” said Mason.

“There’s room for a lot of discussion,” said Black Wednesday. He said some of Untied’s suggestions are okay, but he has problems with others.

Black said should the 1.5 mills levy pass, “We’re going to have to re-open negotiations with Granville as well.” He said one-third of the tax revenue generated in Granville Township Fire Department’s service area of Union Township is going to Hebron. “The area generates (approximately) $120,000 and Granville gets $80,000. I’m starting to hear it from people over there.”

Black said trustees didn’t discuss Hebron’s proposed changes Monday night because he only saw the changes as he arrived at the meeting. He wanted to read them over a time or two before discussing them. “That was the first time I’d seen them,” said Black. He said negotiations would be public. “This won’t be discussed behind closed doors,” he said.

Black said trustees presented a signed contract to the Hebron Village Council with limited discussion because “There really wasn’t a whole lot to discuss.” He said without the levy the township has no more money to provide Hebron than what was provided last year. “The outcome’s going to be the same,” said Black. However, Black said he’s definitely ready to discuss Hebron’s suggestions to the contract.

In other township news:

• Black said it wasn’t trustees’ idea for Buckeye Lake Village residents to vote at the Union Township Complex. “I do not agree with bringing Buckeye Lake here to vote,” he said. “It’s all the board of elections.” Black added the trustees simply told the board of elections the space was available if needed. “We were never thinking they’d put everyone here. We just offered the location,” he said. The township is not able to provide transportation for voters.

However, Black said some township voters are happy about the change because the township complex has easier access than the former polling place at Infirmary Mound Park.

All Hebron, Buckeye Lake, and Union Township voters will vote at the Union Township Complex Nov. 5. None of the former polling places for those communities will be open.

Licking County Transit Board General Manager Cathleen Sheets said the transit board will have transportation available for voters, who should call (740) 670-5185 to schedule a ride. She said standard fees apply – rides are $4 each, oneway. Those with Medicare cards pay $2 per trip and passengers’ caretakers ride for free.

• Granville Village Administrator Steve Stillwell said Granville Village Council approved an ordinance Oct. 16 to petition the Licking County Commissioners to redistrict 13 properties currently in Granville Village and Union Township into Granville Village and Granville Township.

Years ago, Granville Village annexed Union Township properties, but the properties remained in Union Township, meaning that they are not taxed the same as Granville Village properties that are part of Granville Township. Granville Township Fiscal Officer Jerry Miller said Granville Village property owners currently part of Union Township could expect a slightly less than eight percent tax increase if they are redistricted into Granville Township. But, that total does not include Union Township’s 1.5 mills fire levy on the November ballot. Miller said Granville Township has no levies on the November ballot so if Union Township’s levy is approved, Granville Village residents in Union Township would pay roughly the same in taxes as their Granville Township counterparts.

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