In this day of 24/7 news on cable and Internet with almost hourly crises or outages, it is tempting to just say “whatever” and shut it all out. We do have to live our lives and care for our families.
It’s true that we often have very little or no influence on many of these “crises.” But that’s not true at the local level. For example, if we want our hard earned taxes spent wisely and efficiently, we’ve got to start at the local level. We can’t expect wise spending in Washington if we aren’t watching what is happening in our backyards.
Tuesday night’s Walnut Township Trustees’ special meeting reaffirmed the collective power of a couple hundred residents who felt strongly about an issue and decided to do something about it. One week earlier, Millersport’s 84-year-old fire department with its long history of serving Walnut Township seemed destined to be replaced by a township fire department. A motion to do that was just a second away from being approved by a 2-1 vote of trustees. A small but vocal crowd, coupled with a tenacious Terry Horn, managed to stall it by proposing a special meeting for Tuesday night. Millersport Fire Department supporters were caught off guard by Trustee President Sonny Dupler’s proposal to cancel the contract, but they took full advantage of the one week reprieve. Behind the scenes, there were e-mails and conversations rallying supporters to attend the meeting.
It all came together when more than 200 residents turned out for the special meeting. To his credit, Dupler let Horn run the meeting and didn’t try to impose the normal three-minute time limit. At times, the meeting seemed more like a New England town meeting as residents offered suggestions on the direction of the discussion and later suggested amendments to motions that were accepted and approved.
Your sheer numbers, pleas and well reasoned points convinced Trustee Ralph Zollinger to side with Horn. That lead to an unanimous agreement to negotiate a four-year contract – after years of one-year agreements – with the Village of Millersport for EMS/fire protection services while accepting binding arbitration if necessary to achieve that agreement.
This is a tremendous win for everyone in the township. It is the low cost solution, yet it should maintain 24/7 coverage at all three stations. It makes maximum use of existing facilities. There will be no need for new fire stations. If necessary, the arbitrator will eliminate the quarterly squabbles over how much the township should be paying the village and will set an equitable allocation of tax revenues. Once the agreement is reached, the focus can shift to improving cooperation between the two departments and maximizing the use of existing resources. Dupler does deserve a tip of the hat for joining the majority to make it unanimous, rather than continuing to fight a losing cause. Hopefully that spirit will last through the next four years.
Your involvement made a critical difference. A successful democracy requires your attention and involvement. There are other issues in our lakearea community that would benefit from public attention and participation.