At past Franklin County fairs, the fire engines and medics on standby in the infield during demolition derbies and other events were provided at no extra cost.

At past Franklin County fairs, the fire engines and medics on standby in the infield during demolition derbies and other events were provided at no extra cost.

Beginning Jan. 1, the Norwich Township Fire Department will levy a fee for providing the service at special events at the fairgrounds.

Norwich Township trustees on April 17 directed a letter to Franklin County Agricultural Society secretary Tim Shade informing the fair board of the new policy.

"It just means it will cost us more money to operate the fair," Shade said Friday, April 20.

Events at the Franklin County Fairgrounds that require standby emergency-medical service include the demolition derby, motocross, harness racing and the truck and tractor pulls, Shade said.

"Many other townships charge a fee for such a service … and while we continue to provide many services free of charge, (a fee for standby emergency medical service) is a matter of economics," Norwich Township administrator Kate Cavanaugh said.

The April 17 letter said any event or group requesting or requiring dedicated emergency personnel is subject to a $50 per-paramedic/per-hour fee.

"This will cover the cost of personnel and apparatus. This change has been necessitated by current economic conditions. Overtime hours for work done outside of our normal blanket district coverage has become a major expense that the department can no longer absorb," the letter stated.

Shade said the fair board will discuss the issue at its next meeting, scheduled May 15, but it already had formed some ideas how to handle the new policy.

"It's a county fair," Shade said, and, as such, the fair board could hire a different fire department to provide emergency-medical services.

"A couple of board members have already considered this," Shade said.

He said while it probably is wishful thinking that any fire department would provide services free of charge, another department could agree to a lower fee.

Hiring more than one department during the eight-day fair also is a possibility. In Miami County, Shade said, each day a different fire department provides emergency-medical services free of charge.

"Departments then are only dedicating personnel once," he said.

The new policy will not result in an admission charge to the grandstand, Shade said.

"We won't charge for people to see (the demolition derby) … but the additional cost will affect our entertainment budget," Shade said.

Likely that means some of the roving entertainers and daily acts, such as clowns, mimes and musical performers, will be scaled back or prevented from performing, Shade said.

"We will take a close look this summer at how many medics are here and for how many hours," Shade said. "Then we will have an idea of what it will cost us and how it will affect our budget."

Norwich Township trustee Tim Roberts said April 20 it did not come as a surprise that the fair board might explore alternatives.

"Our first priority is to our community … and I don't think our citizens should pay the overtime (for medical personnel at the fairgrounds)," Roberts said.

Roberts, a retired Norwich firefighter, said while on active duty, he was unaware of the arrangement between the department and the fair board.

"We were simply assigned to go there … but I understand the need to cover our expenses," he said.

While fire department administrators advised the trustees about a necessary amount, Roberts said he did not rule out the possibility of negotiating with the fair board about services.

"I'd hate to see (another department) providing services at our fairgrounds," Roberts said.