Two Orange Township trustees clashed on a personal basis during a discussion of a fire levy at the April 16 trustees' meeting.

Two Orange Township trustees clashed on a personal basis during a discussion of a fire levy at the April 16 trustees' meeting.

While trustees later voted 2-1 to ask the Delaware County Auditor's Office to certify millage to raise $7.93 million a year for a Nov. 6 ballot issue, the discussion became testy between trustee Chairman Rob Quigley and Trustee Lisa Knapp.

During several minutes of pointed exchange, Quigley said Knapp tries to make people look bad. She asked for examples and called his statements unprofessional and immature.

Quigley, who was elected in 2009, also claimed Knapp is manipulative behind the scenes.

"What you've done to the township the last three months is turning the township upside down," he said.

Knapp, who was elected in November, responded by asking Quigley what he meant. He asked her if she really wanted to get into such a discussion in a public session.

"You said I like to make people look bad ... I don't come in here and discuss your personal life or how you go about conducting your business," Knapp said. "I don't make insults. I don't make snide remarks. I expect the same from you."

Quigley said Knapp, who has been videotaping meetings for the past couple of months, has been doing that to make herself look good. She denied the accusation and, after the meeting, said she is videotaping to encourage decorum and to allow interested residents to see what happens at meetings, since the township doesn't provide video of meetings on its website.

The two trustees have clashed in previous meetings, including the first meeting of the year, when they battled over who would serve in various trustee liaison positions. Knapp is liaison for the fire department.

For the past several months, trustees have been discussing a possible three-year, 7.9-mill fire levy. At the April 2 trustees' meeting, Quigley and Trustee Debbie Taranto voted in favor of a request to have the county auditor certify millage to raise $8 million a year.

Township officials have estimated that would be about 7.9 mills.

Knapp, who voted against the request, favors a 7.4-mill levy that she estimates would raise more than $7.5 million a year.

Collections on the current three-year, 5-mill levy expire later this year. That levy will raise about $5 million this year. Fire officials estimate they currently need $7 million a year in operating funds and $921,000 a year in capital improvement funds to maintain the department and have a little room for growth.

The department has been cutting back on fire vehicle and equipment purchases the last few years as well as using carryover money from an earlier, larger levy to help run the department.

On April 16, Quigley said the auditor had informed him that a 7.9-mill levy would raise slightly more than $8 million a year. He said because of that, the millage amount likely would be taken down a notch to 7.8 mills. Taranto agreed.

However, Knapp voted against it, saying she still thinks a 7.4-mill levy in November is enough.

Whether a possible 7.8-mill levy should be for three years or longer has not been decided.

Quigley said he is considering five years because now, when the township places a levy on the ballot every three years, it coincides with the same year the fire union contract expires.

Negotiations on the current three-year contract are expected to begin next month.

Breaking from that cycle, Quigley said, would mean township officials already would have a contract in place and know what concessions or increases have been made regarding such things as wages and benefits.

Fire Chief Tom Stewart, who has backed a three-year, 7.9-mill levy, said a five-year levy might not be the best route to take.

"We will do whatever the board of trustees wants to," he said. "Doing a five-year (levy) doesn't guarantee we'll get better negotiating leverage."

Top-scale firefighters currently earn $63,000 a year and have the township pick up their 10 percent of pension contributions. All township employees get free health coverage. About $6 million of this year's $7 million fire operating budget goes for wages and benefits.