Prairie Township voters will find one local issue on the May 8 primary ballot: a 3.61-mill levy to support fire and EMS services.

According to information from the township, it would, if approved, cost homeowners about $126.35 per every $100,000 in home value.

The permanent levy would be collected beginning in 2019 and is expected to generate an additional $1.1 million for the department.

"We've been trying to reach out to our absentee voters, trying to get yard signs out," fire Chief Chris Snyder said. "We're trying to hopefully answer most of the questions that people may have. We've got tremendous community support."

He said the additional revenue would be used to maintain current service levels. It also would allow the department to implement a capital improvement plan that would cover major purchases, such as a new ladder truck.

After 18 years, the township's current ladder truck is nearing the end of its lifespan and would cost close to $1 million to replace, Snyder said.

The fire department has not asked voters for additional funding since 2010, when voters approved a levy that replaced older ones.

The Prairie Township Fire Department has an annual budget of about $5 million and operates two fire stations. Without the additional money, township officials said the department will be in the red in about two years.

"We need roughly about a million dollars in the bank at the beginning of the year, and that's where we're getting to," township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker said.

As part of a cost-savings effort, the township turned over dispatching services to Grove City in December 2017, paying the city $168,540 annually. Previously, the township employed four full-time dispatchers and was spending more than $300,000 a year to operate aging technology, Hatmaker said.

"We're not in dire straits yet and we don't want it to get there," Assistant Chief Allen Scott said.

Fire crews responded to 6,112 calls for service last year, with nearly two-thirds (3,886) being emergency medical incidents, according to information from the department.

Snyder said the department provides other programs and events not traditionally associated with fire service -- such as the department's school visits and the annual fish fry.

If the levy is not approved May 8, township officials have said they would likely vote to place it on the November ballot.

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