Miami Township to pursue MTFR levy
- Published: June 21, 2022
A new levy to help cover growing personnel costs for Miami Township Fire-Rescue may be on the ballot in November.
At the Miami Township Trustees’ regular meeting on Monday, June 6, Trustee Chair Chris Mucher said the financial needs of the township’s fire department and emergency medical services have risen significantly in recent years.
Citing the attendant expenses of retaining Miami Township Fire-Rescue, or MTFR, paid full- and part-time staff, and the desire to decrease dependency on volunteers, Mucher said that the passage of a levy this fall would buoy the existing levy that helps fund the department’s operations.
The existing 3.8-mill levy, which has been in place for over 25 years, generates about $580,000 a year for MTFR operations, and costs township property owners about $116 a year for every $100,000 of assessed home and property valuation, according to past News reports.
Although the trustees expressed interest in getting an additional levy on the ballot — one that would run concurrently with the existing levy — no millage has been proposed.
“It’s the paid personnel that keep our departments running,” Mucher said at the meeting. “Without additional money, we would have to start laying people off, and [as a result,] we may not be able to respond to crises in time.”
MTFR provides fire and emergency medical services to the approximately 7,500 residents and more than one million annual visitors to Miami Township, eastern Bath Township, Yellow Springs and Clifton.
According to Mucher, MTFR has nine full-time employees, 13 working part-time and approximately 12 volunteers. He said the workers’ wages depend on their qualifications.
Paramedics are paid over $19 per hour; EMTs and firefighters, who are fully trained and certified, are paid approximately $17 per hour. Pay for part-time employees who are freshly trained start at around $12.50 per hour.
Tasked with crafting the proposed levy — which involves determining the ideal millage by working with fire department Chief Colin Altman and Fiscal Officer Margaret Silliman, as well as hashing out the electoral mechanics of getting it on November’s ballot — is Miami Township’s newest trustee, Marilan Moir, who began her four-year term in January.
“The problems of labor and wage shortages are not unique to Yellow Springs and our emergency departments,” Moir told the News in a separate interview. “It’s a part of a much larger, nationwide phenomenon. The old volunteer model just doesn’t fit with modern life anymore.”
Moir said her role in working on the levy will be strictly clerical, and will ultimately provide her with experience that will help her in her role as a trustee.
Further discussion on the proposed levy will occur at the next regular Township Trustees meeting on Tuesday, June 21.
In other Township Trustees business, June 6:
In his routine department report, Chief Altman said that over the two previous weeks, EMS crews had responded to 61 incidents, 11 of which occurred in Bath Township.
The trustees unanimously passed two resolutions authorizing the hiring of a part-time employee, 21-year-old Kendall Cunic, of Kettering, as well as a new volunteer, Elizabeth Mele, a first-year student at Antioch College.
Altman said Cunic will work C-shift — that is, 11 p.m.–7 a.m. — and will help reduce the department’s overtime. Cunic is now MTFR’s first and only hazard recognition officer, which means Cunic has the training to conduct fire and life safety inspections in Ohio.
Altman also took time to recognize the work of staff member Georgia Goad, the only woman employed by MTFR. Currently residing in East Dayton, the 34-year-old Goad, who was present at the meeting, has worked for the department for nearly four years.
“In conversations with the chief, we hear you’re rock solid,” Trustee Moir said to Goad. “One of the best on the staff.”
Goad said she’s proud to work in Yellow Springs alongside co-workers she considers to be her best friends. Having worked most of her life in “predominantly male-dominated fields,” Goad said she doesn’t experience any sexism at MTFR as the only woman on staff.
“Diversity in fire service isn’t a strong suit for us,” Altman said. “We intend to be a better department in that regard, and we’re trying to do better.”
According to a 2021 report from the National Fire Protection Association, less than 5% of career firefighters in the U.S. are women.
“We’re glad you’re here,” Trustee Don Hollister said to Goad.
Oak Grove Cemetery
Mucher said plans are moving forward for establishing a new, natural burial site adjoining the Township-owned Glen Forest Cemetery on U.S. 68 North.
Calling it Oak Grove, Mucher said the cemetery addition will accommodate 60 new gravesites — six rows of 10 graves, each being 10 square feet.
Mucher’s vision for Oak Grove is clear: once a year has gone by after a burial, and after the disturbed ground has settled, the Township will plant a swamp white oak — a tree species native to the region — atop the site.
Relatives of the deceased may scatter additional ashes or set down commemorative signage or headstones at the site, but to allow for proper growth of the oak, no other burial may take place within the 10-square foot gravesite.
“And that tree will be there for the next 200 to 300 years,” Mucher said.
Mucher said the plans for Oak Grove are rounding the conclusion of phase one. What’s next, he said, is bringing a surveyor to the location to mark where each tree may be planted, and to share an artist’s rendering with the public.
Although the addition to Glen Forest won’t be established for some time, nor have plot prices been set, the Township will refrain from selling sites at Oak Grove until the Township’s adjacent natural burial cemetery has reached full capacity. According to Mucher, 79 sites remain. Plots there cost $1,500.
Mucher added that the Township is considering selling three plots in Oak Grove as a pilot endeavor once they’ve been marked by the surveyor.
“That could be as soon as a month from now,” he said.
Zoning Inspector’s report
Miami Township Zoning Inspector Richard Zopf reported having issued three zoning permits in the two prior weeks.
Two were for properties on Hilt Road: one for an accessory storage structure, and the other for a three-season room attached to a home. The third was for a new storage building for a property on Meredith Road.
Zopf said that the focus of a recent regional planning and zoning meeting he attended was area noxious weed control. According to him, the prevalence of poison hemlock was of particular concern at that meeting.
“This year, it seems to be everywhere,” Zopf said. “Going south on [U.S.] 68 from town, you’ll see poison hemlock in large clumps on either side of the road.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, poison hemlock is not only toxic to livestock, such as sheep, cattle, swine and horses, but is also poisonous and potentially lethal to humans if ingested. Touching the plant may cause a minor skin reaction among sensitive people.
Typically found along fence lines, irrigation ditches and roadsides, the plant can grow up to 10 feet tall, and its small white flower structure creates a deceptive resemblance to Queen Anne’s lace and wild fennel.
Zopf said the public is encouraged to contact the Ohio Department of Transportation to eradicate the invasive plant on any public right-of-way, or to take action themselves if a patch is seen on any publicly owned land.
“Now is the perfect time to pull them right out of the ground,” Zopf said.
Transparency, bias concern
Following Zopf’s report, Steve Wirrig, owner of the Wirrig family pavilion between U.S. 68 North and Meredith Road, expressed his dissatisfaction with a perceived bias against him and his past conditional use requests from the Miami Township Board of Zoning Appeals, or BZA.
The BZA is a quasi-judicial body that adjudicates on behalf of the Township, and its decisions are distinct from the Township’s Board of Trustees. As township zoning inspector, Zopf attended the April 28 BZA meeting at which Wirrig sought approval for another series of outdoor shows hosted by Dave Chappelle at Wirrig’s pavilion. Wirrig felt Zopf’s presence was unfair.
Addressing the trustees, Wirrig said, “The question is, who’s your spokesman and what you want to say. [Zopf] represents the township at the BZA meetings, and I caution you against it.”
The BZA ultimately approved Wirrig’s temporary conditional use request by a vote of 4–0, with one member absent. Zopf, not being a member of the BZA, did not vote on the matter. The issue, Wirrig said, was a letter to the News that Zopf wrote the week before the vote that Wirrig believes could have influenced the board’s decision.
“I don’t know how you can possibly conclude that there isn’t bias occurring,” Wirrig said.
Wirrig also took issue with the Trustees having recently appointed Amy Achor as the newest member of the BZA. According to Wirrig, Achor, a neighbor to the pavilion, has complained to Wirrig about the noise coming from the summer shows — as such, Wirrig viewed Achor’s appointment as a potential conflict of interest.
“If there is ever another BZA vote on something that has to do with my property, we will ask her to recuse herself,” he said.
The trustees acknowledged the search for former BZA member Linda Parsons’ replacement was not as publicly advertised as it could have been.
According to Mucher, Achor was appointed to the BZA at the Trustee’s regular meeting on Monday, May 16, the next meeting after the board accepted Parsons’ resignation on May 2.
Also at the meeting, Alex Klug, the outreach director for the Agaria Center for Regenerative Practice, was in attendance.
Klug said she wanted to share with the trustees and the general public several of the center’s upcoming projects for the year.
“Out of respect and consideration for all our neighbors, we want to be as public as possible,” she said.
Klug said one significant project Agraria may soon undertake is the development of a composting facility on the center’s Huston Road campus.
In a follow-up interview, Klug said the goal of the facility is to “relocalize” some of the food and yard waste that the village generates, as well as to create educational opportunities for adults and children alike who want to minimize their waste.
“The whole point, though, isn’t to get into industrial scale composting,” she said. “We want to show people how to do it. Every community ought to have the ability to manage their own waste themselves.”
Klug said that although the center has been authorized by the zoning inspector and health department to begin constructing the composting facility, Agaria is waiting until all of neighbors’ concerns have been addressed.
“We’ve heard that we’re going to be partnering with a massive waste management company and will be using their huge garbage trucks; we’ve heard that we’re going to be open to the public.
Neither of these are true,” Klug said. “We’ll have full control over the site, but for now, we’re holding off out of respect for our neighbors, and so we can clarify what we’re going to do.”
At the meeting, Hollister said he was excited by the prospect of a local composting operation.
“There’s a lot of demand for somewhere in the county that restaurants and households can send their stuff to,” he said. “There’s so much that’s just being thrown out that can be useful as fertilizer.”
Klug also spoke about Agraria’s Jacoby Creek restoration project, in which the center has been working with the Nature Conservancy to re-meander the creek and restore the surrounding riparian ecology.
Additionally, Klug said Agraria intends to begin grazing animals in an Agraria-owned pasture to the north of the facility, as well as continue their development of a nature-oriented play area for the children who visit the center.
The Trustees next meeting will be Tuesday, June 21, at 5 p.m., in the fire station meeting room.