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Hebron, Union Township reach basic agreement

HEBRON – Union Township Trustees agreed to the basic terms of a fire contract with the Hebron Fire Department, but an independent arbitrator will decide the ongoing debate about how EMS billing revenue should be distributed.

Trustees agreed to sign a contract with Hebron provided the village promises to hire an arbitrator to help settle the feud. Trustees believe the township is entitled to 60 percent of all the EMS billing revenue collected by the Hebron Fire Department collects since the township contributes 60 percent of the Hebron department’s operational expenses. Hebron Village Council members maintain that it’s not that simple, and some runs don’t generate EMS billing revenue. Trustees and council members have been at a stalemate since January.

For years, the Village of Hebron has contracted with the township for the Hebron Fire Department to provide fire/EMS services to the unincorporated portion of the township south of the CSX rail line that bisects the township. The sticking point on this year’s renewal is how to use the more than $200,000 generated by EMS billing since July 2007. Hebron, which hasn’t spent the money, wants to use most of it for capital improvements for the fire department. Trustees want what they consider the township’s share, to go toward meeting its 60 percent share of the department’s operating expenses.

Hebron Village Council- whose members were aware trustees were asking for 60 percent of all EMS billing revenue generated in the Hebron Fire Department’s service area, including the Village of Hebron, Buckeye Lake Village, the unincorporated areas, and mutual aid – – sent trustees three proposed contracts for their consideration. One contract proposed signing for basic services now and discussing the EMS billing later, another proposed giving trustees 100 percent of EMS billing revenue generated in just the unincorporated area covered in the contract, and a third contract proposed giving the trustees 60 percent of the revenue generated in the unincorporated areas, Buckeye Lake Village, and mutual aid, but excluded revenue generated in the Village of Hebron.

Initially, trustees rejected all three proposed contracts. Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason, present for the trustees’ Monday night meeting, asked the trustees if there was anything he could provide them to help resolve the issue.

“The same thing I’ve been asking for, for months,” said Trustee Jack Justice, referring to a copy of Hebron Fire Department’s operational expenses. “It’s public information,” he said, adding that the trustees made several requests for the information.

Mason said he was unaware of the trustees’ requests or thought it was mentioned only in passing. “You’ll have (the information) tomorrow,” he said.

Trustees decided to send a letter to the Licking County Prosecutor’s Office informing the prosecutor that their request for the operational budget was not being fulfilled in case Mason didn’t follow through with providing the information. Justice and Trustee Jesse Ours voted to send the letter. Trustee President John Slater voted against sending the letter.

Justice said if trustees sign anything at this point they lose their ability to negotiate. Slater said the trustees need to resolve the EMS billing issue to move forward, but any other issues regarding a fire contract were “minor.”

Justice said he wouldn’t agree to any contract that provided less than 60 percent of all the EMS billing revenue.

Mason said there are circumstances where some runs don’t provide revenue, such as those where Hebron personnel ride with other municipalities. These situations typically involve Buckeye Lake and occur when the department can’t come up with the two required EMT’s to transport a patient to the hospital. Hebron provides that second person.

“We use our people, but don’t receive revenue,” he said. “Nothing’s being withheld because nothing’s being received.” Mason suggested hiring an arbitrator to resolve the dispute.

Exasperated, Slater said, “I think the suggestion of an arbitrator is a good thing. Maybe somebody could make this clearer to me.”

Justice suggested hiring William Kramer, owner of Kramer & Associates – a Cincinnati based emergency services consulting firm – whom the trustees consulted previously.

Mason said he had no problem with hiring Kramer, or someone Kramer recommends. He added he has the authority to hire an arbitrator without village council approval, if necessary. Mason suggested the village and township split the cost. “Believe me, I want to see this contract ratified more than anybody,” he said.

Ttrustees unanimously agreed to sign a contract for basic services with Hebron, provided an arbitrator is hired to resolve the EMS billing issue. Mason promised the village would do its part.

“I personally delivered the information that the township requested last night,” Mason told The Beacon Tuesday evening. He said he hand delivered this year’s appropriations for the fire department and its expenditures to date to each trustee’s home. Mason added that the village received the township’s second payment prior to the July 1 due date; Union Township pays $146,154.50 each quarter for a total of $584,618.

Mason reiterated Tuesday that resolution of the EMS billing fees controversy is necessary, and he favors independent arbitration to determine what is fair and equitable. He opposed a trustees’ suggestion from Monday night that each side hire its own outsider to battle it out. Mason prefers a single arbitrator to listen to both sides and render a decision.

In other township news:

• Two bidders for the township’s annual road resurfacing program must be patient. Trustees received bids from The Shelly Company and Mid-Ohio Paving to repave seven township roads, including Grande Pointe, Old Farm Road, and Margaret Lane. Shelly Company bid $120,949.78 and Mid-Ohio bid $100,826.47. Trustees decided to delay their decision because they weren’t sure how Mid-Ohio could bid so much less than Shelly . Slater said trustees want to review both companies’ bids to make sure the bidders understand the scope of the work before awarding a contract. Trustees will hold a special meeting to make their decision.

Trustees warned that the roadwork might block access to residents’ driveways for several hours while the paving sets.

• Trustees believe they may be able to force property owners to mow their lawns. There are several properties, some in affluent areas and vacant, where the property owners are neglecting their lawns.

While township zoning doesn’t provide for lawn mowing enforcement, Union Township Police Chief Paula Greene said the county prosecutor’s office told her there might be other avenues for enforcement. If that’s the case, trustees could mail a letter to the property owner demanding that the lawn be mowed within seven days. If the property owner doesn’t comply, the township might be permitted to mow the lawn and assess the cost on the property owner’s property taxes.

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