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The Daily



07-01-03: Fire department of their own?
Jefferson Township

The Daily Standard
    Jefferson Township Trustees are considering creating their own fire department, instead of continuing to pay for the services of the Celina Fire Department.
    The city and township have been at an impasse for nearly a year over a city-proposed cost increase for fire protection. Celina imposed th  increase to more fully recoup the city's expenses for outside-the-city fire runs.
    Celina City Council's safety committee met Monday afternoon to review two new offers presented by trustees, but did not consider either.
    Celina also provides fire services to Hopewell and Center townships, where trustees last year agreed to large percentage increases. Voters in those townships then ratified increased property tax levies to cover the cost.
    City councilors passed legislation declaring a need to increase costs to Jefferson Township by approximately 100 percent after presenting data showing the township pays about 10 percent of the fire department budget, but accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all runs.
     Jefferson Township currently pays $57,000 of the $1.2 million annual budget of the Celina Fire Department. The township rejected the city's plan to increase the township's cost to $80,000 for the first year and then start a five-year agreement at $99,000 a year. The change would require the township to ask voters to increase the fire property tax levy from 1.35 mills to 1.5 mills.
    Safety-Service Director Mike Sovinski told committee members Monday about the verbal offers he received from township Trustee Kent Marbaugh.
    Sovinski said trustees proposed paying the $99,000 rate a year for two years, then the township could use grants and the levy to support its own fire department from that point.
    In another offer, the trustees said the township would establish the 1.5-mill levy for the $99,000 rate and would subtract the annual $5,600 owed to Mercer County for emergency medical services, paying the city $93,500 annually.
    The city council committee briefly commented on the feasibility of Jefferson Township starting its own department, but did not accept the offers or change the city's proposal.
    "Nothing's really changed," Councilor Collin Bryan said.
    "If they decide that's what they want to do (start a new department), that's fine," Councilor Rick Bachelor said. "Our decision will be if we want it to take two years or none."
    Sovinski said there is a possibility the township could use grants to build another fire station, with grants the city cannot access because they are not available to cities. If that becomes the case, an agreement possibly could be reached to jointly run a new station with city manpower and township equipment.
    "That's a potential, but there's a lot of Oifs' in between," he said.
    The trustees have until August to place an issue on the November ballot to have the fire millage increased.
    In a meeting of the utilities committee prior to the safety committee, members decided to meet with representatives from Fanning/-Howey Associates, Celina, to discuss the qualifications of the firm in conducting a vulnerability study of the water department.
    Following a federal mandate, council is on the verge of picking an engineering firm to conduct a study that will pinpoint weaknesses in the city's water system
    Several council members had reservations because city administration chose the firm BBS Corporation, Columbus, to conduct the study, though Fanning/Howey said it could do it for nearly half the price.
    Water Superintendent Mike Sudman told the committee he chose BBS because the firm specializes in water and wastewater systems and had already mapped every area of Celina's water plant when a major study was done two years ago. Sudman said Fanning/Howey has a focus on building engineering.
    BBS submitted an estimate of $22,800 to get the study completed, and Fanning/ Howey estimated $11,500. Sudman said three other estimates were received and all were around $22,000 or more.
    "Why are they (Fanning/-Howey) so much lower?" Sudman asked rhetorically. "I don't think they know what's all involved with it."
    Several council members were concerned that the administration did not tell the utilities committee of all the estimates at the last meeting.
    "I am very disappointed on the way the vulnerability study has been handled," council member Angie King read from  a statement by member Sharon LaRue.
    Council member Bryan said he can understand that one firm may be more experienced.
    "I'm kind of hung up on the $11,000 difference, and I think most of council is too," Bryan said.
    King favored hiring Fanning/-Howey to complete the study.
    "We need to prepare a document to give to the EPA so they can put it on their shelf and say they have it," Sovinski said, echoing comments of King and others.
    Mayor Paul Arnold disagreed.
    "We are building a new plant, and this should be incorporated, not just stuck on the shelf," Arnold said.


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P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822