Township, residents work on plan to pay for fire protection
Jurisdictions, taxes and a community authority have created a headache for some Tartan Ridge residents.
An error in a community authority agreement has left the Washington Township Fire Department without service payments from some residents of Tartan Ridge.
Even though residents say they're happy to pay, they're unhappy with the community authority and they way it's been executed.
Part of Tartan Ridge lies in Jerome Township, but Washington Township is the preferred fire and emergency medical services provider for the entire development.
Washington Township cannot tax Jerome Township residents for fire services themselves, so the community authority was created to collect the money and then pay the Washington Township Fire Department for its contracted services.
"The contract providing payment for us was never completed," Washington Township Fire Chief Al Woo said.
Washington trustees would not sign the contract, Woo said, because it would not allow the township to be fully paid for services.
There were also worries of double taxation for Washington Township residents within the community authority.
"By default we're the department of record (for Tartan Ridge)," Woo said.
"They pay 4 mills for infrastructure," he said.
"Once the road infrastructure is all paid for, that goes away. Then there's a half mill for the taxing authority to pay for ongoing fire services."
The Washington Township Fire Department's current effective millage is 9.663 mills.
The community authority board said it waived fire fees for residents of Jerome Township over the last few years because there was no contract, but it did collect 4 mills that will go toward $2 million in road improvements in the area.
The 4 mills will be collected until the $2 million is paid off.
Tartan Ridge resident Richard Wolf said his community authority taxes were collected by the Union County Auditor after the authority marked him past due on his payments.
"In fact, I have not been provided with the opportunity to pay for the fire and EMS service fee as I have not received invoices from the Fire New Community Authority for this purpose, so how can I possibly be past due?" Wolf asked members of the community authority board during an Aug. 12 meeting.
Residents also raised issue with paying for roads and not receiving notice about the community authority when they purchased their homes, as is required by state law.
"Personally, I did not receive any disclosure prior to or during the closing process on my property and I am aware of others to whom disclosure was never made as well," Wolf said.
To resolve the problem of no payments to the Washington Township Fire Department, the community authority board voted to eliminate the fire charges through the community authority for 2014.
Instead the fire department will bill those who are in Jerome Township in Tartan Ridge for the effective millage of fire levies on the books.
"It's easier when you think about it," Woo said. "This is the best of a worst scenario."
The community authority did collect fire service payments for fire services and voted to pay Washington Township the $2,700 it collected for 2013.
The board will have to vote in the future to waive fire fees so Washington Township can, instead, send bills for the services.
A few Tartan Ridge residents still expressed frustration at the situation, asking why these problems weren't solved before construction on homes started.
"Evidently a lot of things were supposed to happen that never did," Woo said.