Hilliard Northwest News

Brown trustees set fire levy vote for July 28

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Brown Township Trustees are set to meet in a special session at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 28, to decide whether to place a 5.12-mill fire levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

It would be a third consecutive attempt to pass a new fire levy. Brown Township voters in May rejected a 5.12-mill fire levy and in November rejected a 4.66-mill fire levy.

The July 28 meeting will take place at the township's Norwich Station 82, 2491 Walker Road.

Trustees must file a resolution with the Franklin County Board of Elections by Aug. 6 to place the levy before voters on the fall ballot.

Trustees already are calling for voters to support the levy.

"The bottom line to all of it is this: If (Brown Township residents) don't pass (the levy) there will be zero (fire protection and EMS service)," Trustee Gary Dever said Monday, July 21.

After the failure by nine votes of the second levy attempt in May, Norwich Township trustees passed a resolution advising Brown Township it would suspend EMS and fire service beginning May 15, 2015.

According to a contract for Norwich Township to provide EMS and fire suppression to Brown Township's approximately 650 households, Brown Township must pay the same effective millage as Norwich Township and Hilliard residents.

Brown Township last passed a fire levy in 2004, a 3.2-mill levy. The only other levy on the books in Brown Township is an 8-mill levy, the first in the township, approved in 1994.

Combined, their effective rate is 6.88 mills, almost 5 mills less than the effective 11.5-mill rate Norwich and Hilliard residents pay for EMS and fire service.

Norwich voters approved a 4.12-mill fire levy in May 2013, its first in 15 years, prompting Brown Township to seek a levy to sync the effective millage.

At a specially scheduled community meeting June 12, Brown trustees discussed the possibility of contracting with the Columbus Division of Fire or the Prairie Township Fire Department or possibly utilizing a volunteer fire department.

But at their regularly scheduled meeting June 19, trustees passed a resolution establishing a minimum standard of service that would not allow for the consideration of a volunteer fire department or a privately contracted provider.

Brown trustees said last month Columbus would likely require annexation in exchange for service and the effective millage rate in Prairie Township was higher than in Norwich, leaving Brown with virtually no other options.

Trustee Joe Martin, who was absent July 21, said last month he was "90 percent sure" Brown had no better option than to maintain its contract obligation with Norwich Township.

Still, trustees said they will use the July 28 meeting to explain all the options to residents and repercussions if a levy is not sought or rejected for a third time.

The 5.12-mill levy rejected by a vote of 352 to 343 May 6 would have generated $455,016 annually and cost homeowners an additional $179 a year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Electricity contract

Trustees on July 21 also voted 2-0 to enter into a 36-month contract with IGS Energy, effective Sept. 1, to provide electricity to the Brown Township Hall and Norwich Station 82.

The township will receive a fixed purchase rate of 7.19 cents per kilowatt-hour. It currently pays a variable rate to American Electric Power averaging 10.78 cents per kilowatt.

Based on past usage, the new contract is expected to save about $300 a month, Township Fiscal Officer Greg Ruwe said.

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