Madison Township officials are looking forward to completing several initiatives and bringing on new staff in 2014.

Madison Township officials are looking forward to completing several initiatives and bringing on new staff in 2014.

Because of staffing changes in the police and fire departments, Township Administrator Susan Brobst said township officials are looking forward to hiring new staff members to maintain minimum staffing levels and to continue providing the high level of safety services residents have come to expect.

"We're looking to add six part-time firefighters to maintain a minimum staffing level of 25," she said. "This year, we'll be doing another entrance exam -- no date has been set yet -- and will then have another group of part-time firefighters hired to maintain our desired staffing level."

Also in the budget for 2014, according to Brobst, is the procurement of a new K-9 unit to replace the previous team of officer Eric Rose and dog JT, after Rose accepted a new position in Virginia with the U.S. military.

"We're also looking to replace our police record management system by June of this year," Brobst said.

Township trustees and staff have also said they are focused on providing better infrastructure for residents, including a new sidewalk maintenance plan and higher-quality water.

"We're working on legislation to deal with sidewalk repair," trustee Gary McDonald said.

He also noted that the township is working hard, including through its partnership with the Franklin County Land Bank program, to continue dealing with nuisance properties.

During 2013, Madison Township partnered with water provider Aqua Ohio to upgrade water lines and resurface streets at the same time. Township officials said they hope to continue this partnership into this year as a way to maintain roads at a cost savings.

Aqua Ohio anticipates having a new water softening system in place and operational by this spring. The system is meant to remove an odor currently associated with tap water in the township; officials also hope it will mean residents can stop using household water softeners.

"We currently have a hardness of about 400 ppm (parts per million), which is extremely hard water," Aqua Ohio representative Greg Odell said. "We're aiming for 150 ppm, which is the right balance between hard and soft water -- so this investment will make the water quality problems go away."

However, the $1.2 million project could end up costing township residents an additional $7.31 per month if Aqua Ohio is granted a rate increase by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The PUCO process can take upwards of 11 months to be decided, Odell said, meaning any rate increase wouldn't likely occur before this fall.

"With the system improvements in place by the time this rate increase is approved, you can stop using your personal water softener, which will save on salt and power costs," he said.

"For those customers without water softeners, the water will now be at levels where you'll only need to use half your amount of laundry detergent, so that will be helpful, too."