Liberty Township

Fact: Fire stations must close if Liberty Township levy fails

To the Editor:

My family and I moved to Liberty Township in 1992. In 1995, I began my service to this community by serving on the Zoning Commission. I am now in my second term as a township trustee.

It has been my pleasure to serve all the residents of Liberty Township and Powell. Needless to say, I love living in Liberty Township and owning a small business in Powell.

In the past 18 years, I have witnessed tremendous growth in our township, school system and fire department. Frankly, I was devastated when back in November the voters turned down a 6.6-mill levy which would have continued fire and EMS services at the same or similar level. The board of trustees put aside numerous differences to place a revised 5.6-mill levy on the Feb. 5 emergency ballot.

Since the levy failed, the township has been forced to lay off 20 percent of its workforce, cut back on extracurricular programs that enhanced the community, and limit any overtime, which has significantly reduced staffing levels. The original levy approved by voters in 2002 was renewed in 2007 and has now expired. We are actually asking for less millage than what the voters originally approved in 2002.

I understand that the community has asked leadership to make changes in the fire department to become more efficient and to essentially do more with less, and we have done so. The firefighters who were laid off will not be coming back, even if this levy is approved. If the levy fails a second time, we will be forced to close down both fire stations. As a result, we will lose a valuable asset which this community already has a huge financial investment in.

This is not a threat by any means. It is a fact. This levy is the township's sole source of revenue for the department. If the township must lay off the remaining 42 firefighter paramedics, Fiscal Officer Mark Gerber estimates the unemployment owed to the workers will be in excess of $625,000. This money would need to come from the general fund, thus further crippling the township's budget.

I realize that for many our residents these are tough economic times. We are all tightening our belts and are faced with choosing between wants and needs. I encourage everyone to visit the web site to get the facts about this emergency levy. SOS is a grass-roots campaign to save our fire department.

In closing, keep in mind that no one "wants" to call 911, but everyone is grateful to know that if they do "need" them, they will be there.

Curt Sybert
Liberty Township trustee