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Still no fire/EMS contract

HEBRON – Union Township Trustees still haven’t signed a 2009 contract with the Hebron Fire Department, nearly five months into the new contract year.

Monday night, trustees said they were uncomfortable with a 10 percent administration fee associated with processing a report detailing EMS billing income specifically generated in Union Township. MED 3000, the company that administrates EMS billing for Hebron, charges a 6.8 percent fee to Hebron. The 10 percent Hebron fee is on top of MED 3000’s fee.

Ten percent for writing a check each month “is a damn good stiff,” said Trustee Jack Justice.

Trustee President John Slater wondered why Hebron would charge Union Township a higher fee than MED 3000 charges. “It’s bordering on a slap in the face,” he said. Slater added that the trustees would be “lax in understanding” to sign the contract without fully understanding the 10 percent fee.

For years, Union Township has contracted with the Village of Hebron 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.

The trustees raised the issue months ago and Hebron Village Council agreed to extend the 2008 contract two months into 2009 to provide more time to resolve the issue. Previously, Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason said extending the contract beyond the two-month period is acceptable as long as the issue is resolved fairly quickly.

Justice said many people have worked hard to hash out a contract acceptable to everyone, but, “I didn’t throw the 10 percent fee in, they did.”

Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason said Tuesday that the 10 percent administration fee is simply “the cost of doing business,” and the trustees were informed there would be a charge. The village must keep a deposit box at a bank, process the information, and issue the township a regular check. “It costs us to do this,” he said.

Mason said the Hebron Village Council approved the latest version of the contract two weeks ago but he’s had no contact from the trustees since late February.

In other township news:

• Which came first, the chicken or the egg – or in this case, the road or the railroad? Slater said the steep road surface at the Thornwood Drive railroad crossing is in need of repair. Trustees believe the CSX Railway should be responsible for at least some of the paving and berm work, which could cost up to $25,000. Slater said a railway representative said the repairs are the township’s responsibility because the railroad was there before Thornwood Drive.

“I’m not willing to concede it’s our responsibility,” said Slater, who added that he thought the railroad sprang for repairs to a railroad crossing on Watkins Road, then did “a complete turnaround for Thornwood.”

The trustees said they believe it’s more likely Thornwood was there ahead of the railway. Justice said the roadwork around the Thornville crossing was completed using railroad ties as a base. “It looks like the railroad did the work,” he said. “I believe it’s their responsibility.”

Slater said the road is becoming a safety hazard as cars slip over the eroding berms when crossing. Justice said the township may need to put up barricades along the berms to stop that from happening. “If that road gives, we have no choice,” said Justice. Even then, motorists would risk hitting the barricades, which may not be visible from the other side of the steep crossing; the trustees described the crossing as a “ski jump.”

• Justice said Granville and Harrison townships adopted trash districts, where one refuse collection service serves the entire township, and discussed imposing a district in Union Township. He believes many residents are ready for a trash district.

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