Hilliard Northwest News

Contingency plan

Cutting ties with Brown would cost Norwich firefighters

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If Norwich Township terminates its contract for fire suppression and EMS services to neighboring Brown Township, staffing would be reduced at the Norwich Township Fire Department, according to township officials.

The Norwich Township trustees on June 17 tasked fire Chief Jeff Warren with creating a contingency plan if the contract is terminated May 15, 2015.

"It's broad and there are no specifics (but) we need to make sure the safety of all our residents are protected," Trustee Larry Earman said June 23.

After residents in Brown Township rejected two consecutive fire levies, the Norwich trustees last month notified their Brown counterparts they would terminate the contract in a year if no funding solution could be achieved.

The fire contract between the townships requires Brown Township residents to pay the same effective millage as Hilliard and Norwich Township residents.

Both Brown Township's recent levy attempts were in response to a 4.12-mill fire levy Norwich Township and Hilliard voters approved in May 2013, requiring Brown Township to follow suit in order to maintain an equal effective millage.

Brown Township residents currently pay an effective millage of 6.88, while those in Hilliard and Norwich Township pay 11.5 mills.

The Brown Township trustees have not decided whether to seek a third levy attempt in November, but they have more time to make a decision. The Franklin County Board of Election's filing deadline for the Nov. 4 general-election ballot is Aug. 6.

The Brown Township trustees have scheduled a special meeting for Monday, July 28, in lieu of the regularly scheduled meeting July 21, Trustee Pam Sayre said.

The meeting will be at Station 82, 2491 Walker Road.

The trustees are expected to report their findings of whether it would be financially feasible or even possible to contract with Prairie Township or the city of Columbus for fire suppression and EMS services.

Earlier this month, the Brown Township trustees adopted a resolution establishing a minimum standard of service, rendering volunteer fire departments and privately contracted firms irrelevant because neither would provide mutual aid and all but guaranteeing a levy would be required to fund fire and EMS services.

Meanwhile, Norwich Township officials are preparing for any result.

"The trustees aren't firefighters (but) we need to know our plan if we aren't going to be servicing Brown Township," Earman said.

It is expected staffing would be reduced, Earman said. Reductions could include equipment.

But, Earman said, any reduction in staffing must not affect the current level of service.

"Response times cannot be any longer," Earman said.

Of particular concern is response time to residents in the Timberbrook subdivision, a Norwich Township neighborhood nearest to Station 82, which Brown Township owns and would no longer be used by Norwich if the fire contract were terminated.

"The contingency plan we requested should include how our personnel would be reassigned," Earman said.

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