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Trustees sticking with fire/EMS contract proposal

MILLERSPORT – Two Walnut Township Trustees stood by their December 7 draft contract proposal to the Village of Millersport at their Tuesday morning meeting.

“We feel it is a good contract and will sign it today,” Trustee Sonny Dupler said. He added that trustees hadn’t had any contact with Millersport Mayor Dean Severence.

“I move we sign the contract and forward it on”, Dupler added. “Then it’s up to them.” President Ralph Zollinger seconded Dupler’s motion . The motion passed 2-0, with Trustee Wally Gabriel isolating himself in the garage due to a virus. He was available in case of an emergency, according to fiscal officerPauline Ety.

Dupler acknowledged the contract is a cut for the Millersport Fire Department. Contract details were not discussed prior to the vote. Public comments were permitted after the vote.

Earlier, trustees approved the budget for the Thurston-Walnut Township Fire Department. Jimmy Barber, representing Fire Chief Jim Hite, asked for a $152,533.59 budget before paid personnel. The total request is $367,153.59. There was some confusion about a $167,000 budget request. Dupler quickly moved to approve a total of $350,000 which includes $200,000 for paid personnel.

Barber asked Dupler why he recommended the cut. “It boils down to one thing,” Dupler responded. “It’s money. We just get so much…I found all these budgets tend to be inflated.”

Millersport resident Mike Brucklemeyer, referencing both cuts, asked how much firelevy income has dropped. “The finances have not dropped,” Ety told him.

“We increased Thurston some, we just didn’t give them everything they wanted,” Dupler added. “We thought Millersport was excessive last year.”

Brucklemeyer asked for some examples. Dupler said Millersport paid their firecontract attorney fees out of the firefund, while the township paid their attorney out of the general fund. Dupler also complained about Millersport spending $10,000 on medical supplies, claiming Thurston spent just about $500. He also cited spending $2,300 for copier service.

“We’re maxed out,” Dupler concluded. He said some funds previously allocated to Millersport have been transferred to Thurston. The township expects to get about $890,000 from all four firelevies next year. Dupler said the firemarshal is paid out of that amount and legal fees will also be taken out of it.

Millersport resident Karen Bergum asked about the “etc.” costs to be deducted from Millersport’s share. “That was an attorney add to,” Dupler answered. “I have no idea.” Ety said firelevy funds can only be spent on fireand EMS services. “It (etc.) should be spelled out,” Bergum said. “It was written by an attorney so I can’t explain it,” Ety responded.

Brucklemeyer asked how trustees came up with 60 percent for Millersport Fire Department. “It’s to make all finances to come out,” Ety told him. He asked if it was based on the number of runs each department makes. “It is basically what it takes to operate the department,” Dupler said.

West Bank resident Craig Babbert told trustees it is apparent something is broken. He asked what trustees are doing to improve communications. “We’re trying to get council to meet with us,” Zollinger said.

“You’ve got some issues with the firedepartment, but you are not being very specific,” Babbert added.

“Let’s get these questions answered timely,” Robert Slater Jr. told trustees. “Let’s stop fishing with attorneys. That’s expensive.”

Dupler, Zollinger and Ety said several times that they’ve had no contact with village officials. Millersport Fire Chief Bill Yates was at the meeting, but didn’t speak. No Millersport council members were at the meeting.

No one mentioned that Dupler and Gabriel meet Monday with Millersport fiscal officerVince Popo after he turned over the latest batch of information requests. Popo tried to organize a meeting between a trustee and a couple of village officials.

Severence spoke with Dupler Tuesday night. He suggested a personal, one on one meeting, but learned Dupler prefers a public meeting with one major condition. Millersport Fire Chief Bill Yates can’t be at the meeting. “For some reason, he won’t meet with Bill Yates,” Severence told The Beacon.

Severence said he told Dupler that Yates is “one hell of a firechief,” adding that he thought some of the township’s information requests exceeded those required by the contract. Severence noted that Yates quickly responds with any firedepartment information requested.

Severence said he asked Dupler why they couldn’t have a multi-year contract. He explained that it is difficultto do long term planning with short term contracts and that concerns about firelevy revenue stability have been resolved since fiveof the township’s six mills for fire/EMS services are now permanent. Severence suggested a three year contract.

He added that Dupler told him the decision to stick with one year contracts was their own, not a recommendation from their attorney. Dupler said trustees now want to see how much the revised property valuations bring in. Severence told him that is just a stalling tactic.

Dupler asked him why paid personnel weren’t being scheduled for January. “I told him we needed to take a hard line approach because they are dealing with the village in bad faith on this contract,” Severence said.

The conversation ended with Severence telling Dupler that he will talk with village officials. “I told him council will not sign that contract,” Severance emphasized.

Wednesday morning, Dupler delivered the draft contract that he and Zollinger decided to approve Tuesday morning to the village. As of Wednesday afternoon, no meetings have been set between township and village officials.

In other business Tuesday morning, trustees approved a zoning change for Tim Moore. He requested a change from RR to R-2 for a 16-17 acre tract near Thurston. Moore wants to put three lots on the tract but doesn’t have 200 foot road frontage required in a RR district. R-2 requires just 100 foot frontage.

Zoning Inspector Ralph Reeb told trustees that the FairfieldCounty Regional Planning Commission recommended that the request be denied. Reeb said zoning commission members had some concerns, but they were addressed by Moore via deed restrictions and agreements with neighboring property owners. “He done everyone they’ve (zoning commission) asked,” Reeb added. Trustees approved the request by a 2-0 vote.

Tim Morris was reappointed to a fiveyear term on the zoning commission. John Harker was reappointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Reeb recommended that trustees remove Kevin Rose from the Board of Zoning Appeals. He said Rose has missed 80 percent of the meetings. Zollinger said trustees will bring up the matter at their first meeting in 2008. Members will continue to be paid $35 per meeting next year.

Township employees will receive the same percentage raise as state statute provides for trustees and the fiscal officer.That increase will be three percent.

Ralph Reeb will return as zoning inspector in 2008. “He is smooth,” Dupler noted.

Trustees also certified township road mileage from the county engineer. The township gained .15 mile over last year for a total of 57.92 miles.

December payments to both firedepartments were authorized. Thurston, paid twice a year, will receive $69,355.25 and the final quarterly payment for Millersport is $37,462.87. Millersport’s payments are not even, with the largest amounts paid in April and September.

Trustees decided to increase liability coverage from $2 million to $3 million on Dupler’s suggestion. “That’s bare minimum,” he said.

Resolutions to pay the trustees and fiscal officerat the maximum amount allowed by law and to authorize health care for the trustees, fiscal officerand full-time employees were also approved.

The annual reorganizational meeting is set for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 2. Trustees will set the regular meeting schedule for 2008 at that meeting.

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