Olentangy Valley News

Liberty Township

Fire levy campaign: No threats, 'just reality'

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Last fall, Powell resident Dave Moeslein saw a sign in his neighbor's yard urging residents to support a levy for the Liberty Township Fire Department on the November ballot.

Moeslein had heard about the issue, but he hadn't made up his mind yet, so he marched next door to ask his neighbor about it. In a few minutes, he was convinced.

"A lot of people didn't really understand what the levy was or how important it was," Moeslein said. "I was one of those people.

"I just needed to be educated," he said.

Regardless, that levy was voted down by a slim margin in November.

Like Moeslein, many township residents have said they didn't fully understand the implications of the vote -- and a group of community volunteers says it won't let that happen again.

Moeslein is one of about 30 residents who have banded together in a grass-roots campaign to pass an emergency levy on the Feb. 5 ballot.

The group meets weekly at the Liberty-Powell YMCA, 7798 Liberty Road N., where its members are crafting their message and a plan of action.

With just a few weeks left before Election Day, the group is about to kick off an educational campaign to help residents understand the consequences of another failed levy.

For Powell volunteer Becca Mount, it's easy to explain.

"A failed levy this time means no local fire or EMS services," Mount said. "That's not a threat; that's just reality."

This month, volunteers will take to the streets and the Internet to spread that message.

"We need people to understand that all the funding comes from the levy, and that having local fire and EMS means quick response times. Quick response times save lives," said township resident Jim Cirigliano, a group member who also serves as the township's assistant fiscal officer.

The volunteers said they'll be stationed in booths at local grocery stores and community events this month to help answer questions and pass out informational pamphlets.

They launched a website, www.saveourservices. info, as well as accounts on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word online.

Several rounds of direct-mail literature will arrive in the mailboxes of most Powell and Liberty Township residents this month.

Weather permitting, volunteers will knock on as many doors as possible this month in their quest to save the fire department.

The fire levy is the township's only dedicated source of funding to pay for fire and emergency medical services.

The previous levy has expired. The township now is relying on reserve funds -- as well as savings from a handful of recent layoffs -- to carry the department through Election Day.

If the levy fails, the township will not have another chance to preserve services.

In that case, it's possible Delaware County EMS, which serves the whole county, could provide some medical services to the township, though the exact level of service is unknown and response times would almost certainly dip, officials said.

It's unclear how the township would receive any level of fire services at all if the levy fails.

Unlike the last levy, which was the subject of a divisive campaign, this one has the backing of every Liberty Township trustee and all members of Powell City Council.

Residents who want to vote early can request an absentee ballot from the Delaware County Board of Elections. Early in-person voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Jan. 25, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 28 through Feb. 2 at the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, 149 E. Orange Road in Lewis Center.

Residents can learn more about the levy campaign, donate to the cause or get involved by going online to saveourservices. info or facebook.com/LibertyPowellFireLevy2013, or by attending a weekly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at the YMCA.

The five-year, 5.6-mill levy would generate about $7 million annually for the fire department and cost homeowners about $171 annually per $100,000 in property value, starting in 2014.

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