Johnstown Independent

Monroe Township

Nov. 4 fire department tax issue is unlikely

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As the search for land on which to build a new Monroe Township fire headquarters continues, trustees likely will not seek a bond issue this year to pay for it.

The deadline to request an issue be placed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot is 4 p.m. Aug. 6, 90 days before the election.

“In terms of purchasing property, we’ve had a couple of meetings to date, but we haven’t found anything that’s attractive,” said Joey Robertson, Monroe Township Board of Trustees chairman.

“We haven’t given up on finding a site,” Robertson said, “but we don’t have a lot of time (to get on the ballot).

“The most important thing now is finding a site that is centrally located to keep our response times down.”

Last December, the township had entered into a contract to purchase more than 5.5 acres of land in Johnstown for $475,000.

The deal fell through during an environmental study of the land at 112 and 186 E. Coshocton St., just northeast of the U.S. Route 62 and state Route 37 intersection.

When it was determined the study would need a third phase, the land, once owned by the Buckenberger family, was sold to Tech International, a tire- and tube-repair company.

“We want to try and get the best location for the right price and we need to do our homework and provide taxpayers the best bang for their buck,” said Trustee John Sadinsky.

Plans to construct a new headquarters have been in the works for more than eight years.

The headquarters at South Oregon and West Coshocton streets was built in the 1950s. It was designed for a volunteer fire force that responded to less than 100 emergencies a year, according to Fire Department Chief Dudley Wright.

The force has grown to 13 full-time firefighters and paramedics and more than two dozen intermittent and volunteer personnel who respond annually to more than 2,000 requests for assistance.

With an annual operating budget of about $1.8 million, the department provides fire protection and emergency medical services to Johnstown, Jersey Township north of Worthington Road, a portion of New Albany and McKean Township and most of Liberty Township.

“We’ve got eight to nine employees sleeping in an area that wasn’t designed for that,” Wright said.

“We have no office space and the station does not meet current national fire department standards,” he said. “We’ve grown immensely over the past 20 years and thecurrent facility just isn’t sufficient for our needs.”

The last time voters were asked to approve a ballot issue to fund a new station was in 2006. It was narrowly defeated.

Sadinsky, who was elected last November, said he wants the township to keep up with growth in the area. He said safety is important.

“Whether residents are ready to foot the bill for this, I can’t answer that,” Sadinsky said. “I was happy to see the school levy pass. That was important.”

Trustees in nearby Plain Township will ask voters in November to approve a 2-mill permanent levy that would generate $1.2 million annually

Plain Township Fire Department Chief John Hoovler estimated the department would have a $1.1 million deficit by fiscal year 2016, based on what the department currently collects from taxpayers.

 

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