Hilliard Northwest News

Brown Township

Trustees seeking feedback on failed fire levy

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Because Brown Township voters recently rejected a fire levy request for the second time, the trustees appealed M to residents May 19 for feedback on a solution to the township's EMS and fire-protection dilemma.

"The check-engine light is on and we need to do something," Trustee Joe Martin said.

According to the township, a fire levy is required to meet a contractual obligation with Norwich Township for EMS and fire-protection services for Brown Township's approximately 790 households.

Officials say according to the service contract, residents of both townships are required to maintain identical effective millage rates for receiving the same services.

Norwich Township voters approved a 4.12-mill fire levy in May 2013, but Brown Township's 4.66-mill fire levy request in November and the 5.12-mill fire levy request May 6 were rejected.

Trustees spent most of the 2 1/2 -hour meeting May 19 discussing how to interact with Brown Township residents concerning the failure of the most recent levy request and preparing for the likelihood that Norwich Township would terminate the fire contract.

Martin said the contract stipulates that either party must provide a 12-month notice to terminate it.

Brown Township trustees have scheduled a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 12, at Station 82, 2491 Walker Road, for the purpose of discussing a levy request for the November ballot.

Trustees said they hope residents would respond to the trustees' efforts to reach out and find a solution.

"If the same five people are in the room every time, we're going to get the same answers," Martin said. "We want to hear from new people (June 12)."

The millage request for November has not been determined, but according to Brown Township Fiscal Officer Greg Ruwe, the amount must be at least 4.62 mills in order to achieve an equal effective millage rate with residents of Norwich Township and Hilliard.

Brown Township officials dismissed the idea of relying on a recount from the May 6 election in which the 5.12-mill fire levy request failed by eight votes, with 347 voting against it and 339 voting for it.

The recount is automatic per state law because the result is less than one-half of 1 percent of the 686 people who cast votes, but recounts do not begin until final results are certified, said Ben Piscitelli, a spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Certification of all the results from the May 6 primary is scheduled at 3 p.m. today, Thursday, May 22, Piscitelli said.

Brown Township trustees discussed several scenarios for alternative EMS and fire protection, including possible contracts with Prairie Township or the city of Columbus.

Ruwe said contracting with Prairie Township was not viable because the effective millage rate Prairie Township residents pay is 15.5 mills, about 4 mills higher than Norwich Township and Hilliard.

He said although it is likely Brown Township could receive EMS and fire-protection services from Columbus for a lower cost, he expects Columbus would require annexation.

If Columbus annexed Brown Township, it would become part of Columbus City Schools because Brown Township is not part of the Win-Win agreement that allows some areas of Columbus to remain in a suburban school district, Ruwe said.

The trustees also said Brown Township residents need to be aware of potential effects on property values and house-insurance premiums if fire protection were lost.

The Norwich Township trustees were scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, after ThisWeek's deadline, and the agenda included discussion of the EMS and fire contract. Visit ThisWeekNEWS.com for a story about the meeting.

Trustee Gary Dever said that while Brown Township does not want to issue anything that appears to be a threat, he expects a probable third fire levy request in November would occur under the auspices that Norwich Township would terminate the contract if the levy were to fail again.

Norwich Township Fire Chief Jeff Warren has not addressed the status of the contract but pledged at the May 19 meeting to support Brown Township's continuing effort to educate voters about the purpose of the levy and the consequences of another levy failure in November.

"We had a tough (time) with voters but I am honored to be your chief and we will do whatever we need to do to help you keep the fire protection you need," Warren said.

Norwich Township Trustee Larry Earman said he had prepared a resolution concerning the fire contract to be introduced at the May 20 meeting.

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