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Trustee sees progress on fire contract with Hebron

HEBRON – Union Township Trustee Jesse Ours believes progress is being made on talks between the township and the Village of Hebron regarding fire protection. “If they’d keep the capital improvements in the township’s name, then no problem,” he said Monday night.

Trustees and village officials are negotiating a contract renewal for the Hebron Fire Department to continue to provide fire and EMS services to the unincorporated portion of the township south of the CSX rail line.

The sticking point is how to use the nearly $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. Union Township wants, what it considers its share, to go toward meeting its 60 percent share of the department’s operating expenses.

Trustees raised the issue months ago and Hebron Village Council recently agreed to extend the 2008 contract two months into 2009 to provide more time to resolve the issue.

Trustee Jack Justice said the trustees are only asking for an “honest and fair” fire contract with Hebron. He said the EMS billing revenue would help offset some of the township’s expenses so the township would not be as dependent on tits general revenue fund to cover fire and EMS protection. “Now is not the time to be taxing people,” he said. “It’s time to back off.”

Trustees and village officials all agreed to continue negotiations.

Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason said he believes if all parties come to the table with open minds, no attitudes or dislikes toward anyone, and keep the entire community – Hebron, the Hebron Fire Department, and Union Township – in mind, an agreement will be reached.

Mason said the Hebron Fire Department can and would continue to operate without Union Township if no agreement is reached, but the fire department could not operate at its current level. Mason said no one has tried to determine what that level would be, because the village is more interested in working out the specifics of the current contract.

Mason does not believe the trustees are unreasonable in their request, but he and council members “don’t understand” why the trustees believe they are entitled to 60 percent of what’s collected through EMS billing, particularly when the trustees say they can’t afford to continue to spend money from the township’s general fund. He said the village continues to spend money from its general fund to supplement fire department operations and the village established a capital improvement fund to utilize funding from the EMS billing.

Mason said Hebron Village Council members are not resistant to the trustees’ requests. “Certainly not,” he said. “Our main objective is to provide a quality level of service at a reasonable cost all the while being fiscally responsible to the residents.” Mason said the township recently increased its contract price with Granville Township (from $18,000 to $65,000 during the last two years; it jumps to $80,000 in 2010) and spent money on a fire protection consultant without discussing them with Hebron officials. “Yet, when times get tough for them financially, the first proposal is to expect us to provide them with 60 percent of our revenue,” he said.

Trustee President John Slater is on vacation and discussions with Hebron will resume when he returns. In other township news, Justice said he received many positive comments about the road crews’ handling of the snowy and icy conditions. “They stepped up to the plate,” he said.

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