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Township willing to consider fire district

HEBRON- Union Township and Hebron officials are considering a fire district, but nothing is certain yet.

Union Township Trustees, Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason, and several Hebron council members met March 4 in a work session to work out a fire contract for 2010 between the village and township. Mason suggested a fire district near the end of the session and all parties are considering it.

“It’s always been in the back of people’s minds,” said Trustee President John Slater March 8. He said he’s definitely willing to listen to ideas and considers a district an alternative. “We ought to at least look at it,” he said, “but there’s not a whole-hearted ‘yes.’” Slater is concerned that a district may raise millage for everyone within it and wonders if the increase would prompt voters to turn down other levies, such as those for schools and roads. “We need to look at the numbers,” he said.

The village and township are basically at odds over how much money the township should contribute to the Hebron Fire Department – it’s currently contributing 60 percent of the department’s operational expenses – and how EMS billing revenue should be spent. Trustees proposed that the township contribute 50 percent of the department’s operational expenses and keep 50 percent of the EMS billing revenue, which they’d like to apply to their share of operational expenses.

Hebron officials argue that’s it’s not quite that easy to divide operational expenses, and all parties previously agreed to use EMS billing revenue for capital expenditures that benefit the entire department.

Mason said any equipment purchased is used for the entire community. It’s not a matter of some being used in the township and some in the village. The village and township can figure out between them what equipment the department needs. “I don’t see that as our issue,” he said. Mason is sure all can agree upon what equipment the community needs.

The township began paying 60 percent of the Hebron Fire Department’s operational expenses in 1981 when the Hebron Industrial Park was established, and Slater wondered, according to the current numbers, if that amount is still necessary. “Should the township still be paying 60 percent,” he asked. Slater said the township isn’t receiving 60 percent of EMS billing revenue. “We feel like we should be paying something less than 60 percent,” he said, and proposed the township’s EMS billing revenue could be used toward the township’s share of operational expenses. “The township would never see the EMS money,” said Slater.

Mason said EMS transports are far greater in the township contracted area than the village and was clear that EMS billing charges the insurance companies of everyone who is transported. If the person transported doesn’t have insurance, the fee is waived.

Slater said trustees still support paying 50 percent of operational expenses.

Mason said there’s no way to predict how much EMS billing will be collected ahead of time. There are many variables. “If we’re talking 50/50 on both accounts (operational expenses and EMS billing revenue), we should seriously consider a fire district,” he said. Mason said all parties are “spinning their wheels” trying to decide how to use money from several pots to serve one community. He said a fire district should also include the Buckeye Lake Fire Department, which also receives some funds from the township. “We have lots of equipment within five miles of each other,” said Mason.

After the work session, Hebron Fire Chief Randy Weekly said a district would either need to include a satellite station north of CSX railway so trains wouldn’t block emergency vehicles, or the district could continue to contract with the Granville Township Fire Department; currently, Union Township pays Granville Township $80,000 this year to cover the area of Union Township north of the railway.

Mason said interim Hebron Fiscal Officer Mindy Kester would attend the next work session set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 25, at the Hebron Municipal Complex, to explain the fire department’s expenses.

In other township news:

• Resident Bill Wright attended Monday night’s regular Union Township Trustees meeting to discuss forming a refuse collection district, whereby one trash collection company would serve the entire township. He said he used to live in Harrison Township and noticed several improvements when it adopted a refuse collection district. “It’s a win, win for everybody,” said Wright.

Wright said in his opinion the positive points to a district are less wear and tear on township roads (a single truck versus trucks from several different companies), lower cost for road maintenance, and less large vehicle road congestion during pick-up times. Also, he believes the cost is reduced and said Waste management quoted him a quarterly price of $75.43, whereby he paid Harrison Township $38.94 per quarter. He said creating the district is something the trustees could do for the taxpayers at no cost to anyone; the township and homeowners would save money.

Wright believes the only downside is some homeowners may resist changing trash collection companies, which he said was “overcome” in Harrison Township.

Slater said most of the feedback he hears favors a refuse collection district. He was clear the township could only create a district for the residents, not the businesses. Slater agreed that most objections would be from people unwilling to change companies if necessary. A refuse district has been discussed for about two years, he said.

“What can homeowners do to move this along,” asked Wright.

Slater said most of the groundwork necessary to create a district is complete. The township would only need to bid for a trash company and meet with the county prosecutor. He told Wright there would likely be a public hearing and, if public support were strong, the township would move forward.

“I think we need to pursue this,” said Trustee Rick Black. Trustee Jesse Ours agreed to explore the district. It may be on the agenda for the next meeting.

Granville Township Trustee Bill Mason, whose township contracts with Big-O trash hauling exclusively, said, “The single con is, ‘You’re taking away my right to choose.’” He said the pros are a huge savings in cost to residents and the elimination of multiple haulers at one time. Safety is improved because vehicles aren’t forced to pass all the haulers in no passing lanes. Mason said there’s less wear and tear on the roads and a guaranteed rate for several years with no escalator clause for increased fuel costs. He added the township could control days and times of the week for collection to avoid conflicts with school bus routes and other travel issues. “And that’s just off the top of my head,” said Mason.

Granville Township Clerk Norm Kennedy said the township secured a price discount for senior citizens, the cost of the township’s trash service is rolled into a program to reduce township expenses for residents and free trash dumpsters are provided.

• Trustees are already discussing road salt supplies for next year. Slater asked if the township should continue to add grit to the salt to extend the supply. Salt was in short supply everywhere and the township used 650 tons this year. “We were able to survive,” he said.

Ours suggested continuing to use grit to hold down costs. Trustees agreed to purchase 1,000 tons of salt from ODOT for next winter. Whatever salt the township doesn’t use next year could be stored for the following year.

ODOT District 5 spokeswoman Kate Stickle said ODOT sells salt for $60.59 per ton, for a total of $60,590.

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