Township Trustees approve fire levy
- Published: July 12, 2022
At its June 27 meeting, the Miami Township Board of Trustees voted to approve a resolution of necessity to move forward with placing a 3.5-mill continuing levy on the November ballot.
Approving the resolution were Trustees Don Hollister and Chris Mucher; Trustee Marilan Moir was not present at the meeting. The resolution was later confirmed by the Greene County Auditor.
If approved by voters this fall, the levy will generate about $670,000 per year for Miami Township Fire-Rescue; it will cost taxpayers $122.50 for every $100,000 of appraised property value, or $35,000 of assessed value.
Reiterating comments made at the board’s June 6 meeting, Mucher stressed that the funds generated by the levy, if approved, will be used to pay MTFR personnel.
“It’s not for operations, it’s not for equipment, it’s not for anything except salaries, medical insurance, worker’s compensation, all the benefits that there are — but that is it,” he said.
MTFR’s current operating funds come by way of a 3.8-mill levy that was originally passed 25 years ago and was renewed in 2020, which generates $574,273 of revenue for the Township annually. That levy, MTFR Chief Colin Altman said, was designed to fund two full-time staff members per shift, aided by part-time staff and volunteers.
However, with call volume increasing and volunteer numbers down due to more stringent training requirements from the state, Altman said MTFR needs to fund three full-time positions for each shift in order to meet the current needs of township residents.
“When I took over as chief in the mid-’90s, we had 502 calls [per year],” Altman said. “Last year, we had 1,300.”
MTFR’s most recent annual budget, Altman said, came in at around $929,000, with around $896,000 of that earmarked for personnel costs. Funding from a new levy would both address the budget deficit and allow for an additional full-time staff member on each shift.
Altman added that rollover funds from the Township’s ongoing general and road maintenance levies, which generate about $190,000 annually, have helped fill gaps in MTFR personnel costs in recent years, but that the practice is not sustainable.
“We need roads, obviously,” he said.
Mucher said that, despite MTFR running at a deficit, the board has eschewed putting a new levy on the ballot over the last decade so as not to overburden voters, who approved the renewal of the 3.8-mill operating levy in 2014 and 2020. Voters also approved a separate, 30-year bond issue to fund the new MTFR station in 2017.
Now, however, Mucher said, as MTFR is projected to run short of operating funds by mid-2023, the board is acting in order to make sure a levy is on file with the Greene County Board of Elections by the required 90 days ahead of the November election. Waiting until the next election cycle, he said, would be too late to adequately address the projected shortfall.
“We’ve got to bite the bullet,” Mucher said. “We’ve got to go to the public, and we’ve got to tell them that … if they want somebody to come to their emergency, they’re going to have to partner with us and support a levy.”
Several department and community members present at the meeting spoke in favor of passing a levy, but urged the board to consider approving a higher millage for the ballot.
“I think it’s really good this is being addressed,” MTFR employee Ted Wasserman said, but added that four or five staff members on duty would be ideal in the event of a major blaze or multiple, simultaneous emergencies.
“Three is a good start, but there’s not much I can do with three people in a fire,” he said.
Mucher responded by saying that large fire events aren’t common in the village, and that, if one were to occur, the township could rely on aid from surrounding townships.
“They’ll be here in the blink of an eye,” Mucher said.
Township resident Payton Cooper also spoke in support of a higher levy, saying, “I wouldn’t mind if the levy [millage] was upped … because with older family members in the township, I definitely want a response time that’s faster than Xenia Township or Hustead coming out.”
Mucher and Altman said they understood the concerns over safety, but spoke to their worry that a larger levy would be voted down by the electorate.
“The reality is, we’re going to be lucky to pass the levy as it is,” Altman said, with Mucher later adding: “To ask for more than the [3.8-mill] operating levy now — I just worry about the optics of it.”
Before the resolution was approved, Trustee Don Hollister lauded the work of Trustee Marilan Moir, who helped hash out the proposed levy’s details and is working through the clerical process to get it on the ballot by the August deadline.
“She should be saluted for that,” Hollister said.
“And she is very much in support of the resolution,” Mucher added.
Miami Township Fire-Rescue report
Altman reported that, since the board’s previous meeting in May, MTFR had received 42 EMS calls and 23 fire calls.
One of those calls was made when a contractor accidentally struck a gas line when digging at Millworks. The business and industrial complex, located on North Walnut Street, was evacuated, and Centerpoint Energy responded within 20 minutes to shut off the gas valve. No injuries were reported.
Other calls included a vehicular crash with a rollover near the intersection of Cornerstone Trail and North Enon Road in Bath Township and a small electrical fire at Friends Care Community that was confined to an air conditioning unit. Altman also reported that a Township brush truck had received minor damage after being sideswiped by another vehicle, which left the scene.
Altman also addressed new Ohio legislation regarding fireworks that went into effect on July 3.
The law allows Ohioans to discharge consumer fireworks on specified holidays unless their local political subdivision bans the use; neither the Village of Yellow Springs nor Miami Township have adopted such a ban. Under previous law, individuals could purchase consumer-grade fireworks in Ohio, but had to transport them out of state within 48 hours.
Altman said the new law is “problematic to a degree,” but called it the “best possible solution” as many Ohioans, including locals, didn’t heed the previous law and set off fireworks anyway.
“The fire chiefs supported this law because at least now we can do public education about how to use fireworks safely — if such a thing is possible,” Altman said.
He added that he had spoken with Village Manager Josué Salmerón and advised that the Village refrain from passing local legislation to ban the use of fireworks, as “the police are busy enough.”
In other Township business:
• The board discussed two columbariums, which hold and display funerary urns, which were recently established at Glen Forest Cemetery; the board approved building the structures last year.
Mucher said the columbariums “look nice,” but suggested the board consider building a third such structure so that they appear “balanced” and to address potential pricing tiers based on visibility.
Mucher added that the Township has about $95,000 in reserve that could be applied to building a third columbarium.
“We certainly can afford that,” he said.
Hollister suggested waiting to discuss building a new structure until all three trustees are present, and the subject was tabled.
• Green Township Trustee Brian Clem announced that his township would be terminating a $1,500 annual contract with Miami Township to provide fire services to a portion of the village of Clifton within the boundaries of Green Township. Most calls in that part of the village, Clem said, are routed through Clark County’s dispatch and addressed by either Hustead or Pitchin’s fire departments.
Clem added that the contract made more sense decades ago when Miami Township still maintained fire stations in both Yellow Springs and Clifton, but that the move to MTFR’s previous Corry Street location, and then to its current Herman Street structure, meant EMS and fire trucks are now further away from that portion of Clifton.
“Now that you’re on this side of Yellow Springs, I think [Clark County] can cover them just as quickly as what you can,” Clem said.
The News will report on the board’s July 6 meeting in a future issue.