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Trustees agree to make advance payment to village

MILLERSPORT – The Village of Millersport will get its July payment from Walnut Township Trustees about fiveweeks early.

The unanimous decision by trustees on Trustee Wally Gabriel’s motion came near the end of a sometimes testy 90-minute joint village council-trustees meeting Tuesday night at Millersport Elementary School. Village officials proposed the meeting last week in an attempt to resolve a growing dispute over the fire/EMS contract.

Trustees signed a check for $163,488.82 Wednesday morning for Millersport. The trustees’ agreement to advance the payment due July 24 didn’t resolve the underlying dispute about the amount of payments due four times a year, nor did it address some other critical issues about the provision of fire/EMS services in the township. However, it does represent the first thaw in a contract dispute that has been growing for some 18 months.

Trudy and Ron Craig of South Bank helped break a stalemate that was focusing on why the village received just $128,687.50 on April 22 when it was expecting about twice that amount. A decision to have township fiscal officerPauline Ety void the original April 22 check for $257,374.41 added to the fire.

“You are the leaders of this community,” the Craigs told council members and trustees. “Start getting together and working together.” It took a few more exhortations from the Craigs to get the focus on moving ahead rather than on the past. Ron suggested the advance to help Millersport secure a federal grant. Trudy suggested both sides renegotiate the agreement, with Ron proposing that both sides leave the attorneys out of it.

He wasn’t the only one questioning the use of attorneys. “What gets me is that attorneys worked on this,” Mayor Dean Severance said referring to the village’s belief that they would receive 60 percent of the township’s receipts to date from the fire/EMS taxes on the four specified payment dates. Trustee Sonny Dupler insisted that the village had agreed to four approximately equal payments on those dates.

About 50 residents attended the meeting that started with a presentation from Millersport Fire Chief Bill Yates. He briefly traced the department’s history beginning in 1925 as an all volunteer department. The association built the current Lancaster Street firestation in the 1950’s.

Yates also presented some data based on 2007 runs. The department makes “house calls” with 96 percent of the runs to homes. Sunday is the busiest day of the week for runs with more runs occurring in the 5 p.m. hour than any other. More than 80 percent of the calls for service are for emergency medical services. Yates said the department had a paramedic on every run in 2007.

Yates also referred to what he termed a “misunderstanding” about how the township pays tax receipts to the village. “We believe it is 60 percent of the money collected four times a year,” he explained.

After Yates’ presentation, the agenda prepared by Severance called for comments by a trustee representative and a discussion about the future.

Trustee Sonny Dupler did’t hold anything back. “Let’s get some facts straight,” he quickly said. He claimed Yates and council member Dave Levacy knew “exactly” how the village would be paid.

“A lot of this is bad press,” Dupler added. “That’s why 90 percent of you are here.”

Dupler said before 2007, Millersport was paid twice a year – June and December. “If this is such a big deal, let’s go back to that.” Yates later pointed that there is a big difference between pre-2007 and now. The difference is the department now has paid staff which costs about $26,000 a month.

Though Severance originally said there would be an opportunity for public comments and questions at the end of the meeting, residents began peppering Dupler with questions.

One question, prompted by Dupler’s distribution of a Millersport fund ledger sheet earlier in the month, asked for the current balance in the township’s fire fund. Township fiscal officer Pauline Ety said the balance is $550,000. That balance will be declining, she explained, since she hasn’t yet made the twice-annual payment of $75,000 to the Village of Thurston. Thurston receives $75,000 in June and December.

In addition to those payments, the township pays all of Thurston’s personnel expenses directly, while Millersport pays its employees directly. Ety also said the township will be making a $140,000 payment on Thurston’s new medic. Millersport is currently paying off loans for a new engine and medic. The money for those payments comes from the township. Millersport property owners pay the same taxes for fire/EMS services as those in the township.

Residents also wanted to know why the first April 22 check to Millersport was cut in half. “I was told to divide it in half,” Ety said. She added trustees told her they wouldn’t sign the original check. Dupler said the check was changed because of “the contract.” When asked when that the decision was made, Dupler said, “There was no meeting whatsoever.” He said he and Ety made the decision.

Trustees did not discuss the future beyond speeding up the next payment.

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