For 20 years, the BST&G Fire Department has been operating with the same levy millage, but it might be time for a change.

For 20 years, the BST&G Fire Department has been operating with the same levy millage, but it might be time for a change.

The department's 2-mill, five-year operating levy will expire in May 2012. Fire Chief Mark Almendinger said the BST&G board is discussing how to proceed with a levy request.

"It would probably be a new one," Almendinger said, saying that the levy's millage hasn't been determined yet. The board has discussed a two-year and a five-year levy.

Almendinger said his recommendation would probably be for a five-year levy.

Almendinger said the current levy no longer meets the need, and that it's becoming challenging to get the resources required to meet demand. As the surrounding commercial and residential development has increased, so has the fire department's activity. BST&G had been averaging about 200 runs per year. Within the last four to five years, the number of runs has been increasing yearly by about 100 runs.

Last year, BST&G made more than 900 total runs.

"A volunteer environment on 900 runs doesn't work," Almendinger said.

BST&G became a part-time paid fire department 16 months ago and employs 36 part-time firefighters along with Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Wilson, who is full time. The station is staffed 24 hours a day and serves 51 square miles and a six-mile stretch on Interstate 71 near state Route 36.

Three firefighters are on duty at any time, and all firefighters are always on call. If paged, they determine whether they can come in to provide additional support.

Almendinger said he wants to use new levy funds to move three firefighters from part-time to full-time status. The three-person shift would then be staffed by one full-time person and two part-time people. Part-time employees can work a maximum of 1,550 hours per year; on average they work about 24 hours per week.

Offering full-time pay to employees would help the fire department "attract and maintain those top-notch firefighters," Almendinger said. Some employees have left for full-time departments. Almendinger said he has to replace a couple of firefighters about every three to four months.

Almendinger said he anticipates offering a $34,000 salary for full-time firefighters, plus benefits, though that amount could change. The part-time hourly rate of $10.25 wouldn't substantially change.

Levy funds also would be used to develop a fund for truck replacement schedules, Almendinger said. Depending upon how much they're used, a fire truck lasts 15 to 20 years and a ladder truck lasts 20 to 25 years. On average, it costs about $500,000 to replace a truck. BST&G has 10 trucks, built in years ranging from 1984 to 2010.

The Delaware County auditor will update valuation of all property in the BST&G district in August, Almendinger said. Current valuation totals $324 million. The current levy generates $638,000 per year, and is the fire department's only funding source.

Almendinger said the levy request can be submitted Jan. 1, 2012. The four-member BST&G Fire Board will determine the millage by the end of the year.

In other Sunbury news:

In addition to the $20,201 AEP owes the village of Sunbury for incorrectly charging the village for old street lights that were no longer in service, AEP will pay Sunbury $3,258. The village was previously told it would receive a refund covering a three-year period. The refund period was only for 31 months. AEP had been incorrectly charging the village for five years, but its refund policy goes back only three years.

The Sunbury Tree & Landscape Commission is looking for a new member. Those interested can call village administrator Dave Martin (740) 965-2684.