Orange Township trustees on June 20 took a preliminary step toward placing a fire levy on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Orange Township trustees on June 20 took a preliminary step toward placing a fire levy on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Trustees Rob Quigley, Jennifer Christian and Nelson Katz decided by consensus to request the Delaware County auditor to determine how much millage would be needed for two levy scenarios. One would raise $7 million a year and the other would generate $7.75 million annually.

Assistant Fire Chief Matt Noble told trustees a three-year, five-mill operating levy approved by voters in 2009 will generate about $4.6 million this year. The department has a $7-million budget for 2011 and had a cash carryover from 2010 of about $4 million.

"I think it's a good idea to get started now" on discussing a possible levy, said Quigley, chairman of the board of trustees.

Katz provided information showing the fire department has done a good job holding the line on costs during the past few years. The cash carryover, however, continues to dwindle each year and will be less than $1 million by 2014 without any new money. The township has about 22,000 residents.

"I think we've done well in holding costs down," said Katz, the trustees' public safety liaison. "We're going to need a levy at an increased level from what we currently have."

The department has a staff of 67, including 43 full-time firefighters and 17 part-timers, and has delayed for several years buying a new engine and ambulance, and hiring a training officer and three more full-time firefighters, Noble said.

"If we put it (a levy) on in November and it does not pass, it will give us time to adjust to put it on in May (2012)," Noble said.

Quigley said trustees will have time to discuss the issue after the auditor provides the millage amounts. The deadline to place an issue on the Nov. 8 ballot is Aug. 10.

Katz said seeking a levy for five years instead of three would provide more stability for the department and citizens.

Collections of the current levy will expire Dec. 31, 2012.

Also at the meeting, trustees unanimously approved rezoning nearly 2.9 acres at Rail Timber Way and Olentangy Crossings East for independent-living senior housing. The township zoning commission, in a meeting last month, had recommended approval of the project.

"We have spent the better part of the spring working with your zoning board. We feel we have accomplished (what we need to)," said Lynn Dalton, who represented the Franklin Foundation, which will build and operate the senior housing.

The Franklin Foundation will build a 20-unit building that will have 19 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit. No more than two people can live in a unit and one person must be 62 or older.

Dalton said before the meeting that a grant from the federal Housing and Urban Development department will pay for the bulk of the $2.4 million project. Construction on the site, north of the Kroger store on the east side of U.S. Route 23, could start in September and take about a year.

"I know it was a lengthy process. We're glad you're interested in having your facility in Orange Township," Christian told Dalton and two other Franklin Foundation representatives.

In other business during the seven-hour meeting, trustees:

Created an economic advisory board to help attract and retain businesses. The board will have five members, including possibly someone from the Orange Township Business Association. Interested people may apply for the positions with trustees appointing board members.

Quigley said such a board is needed because the township continues to grow. It will operate much like other non-paid volunteer township boards and, at first, probably will meet every two months.

Will work with the county engineer's office on the next step needed to make improvements at the Orange Road-U.S. Route 23 intersection to deal with congestion and other traffic problems.

The county did a preliminary study of the intersection in January and township trustees last month decided to ask the county to move forward with the project.

The township plans to seek Ohio Public Works Commission funding to help pay for the bulk of the estimated $1 million project. Among possible improvements would be turn lanes on West Orange Road.