Gahanna residents have more time to decide if they want a different way of funding their fire services through a proposed property-tax levy.

The March 17 primary election was postponed when Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Heath, issued an order March 16 closing the state's polling places because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A March 16 directive from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the primary is suspended until June 2.

The Mifflin Township Division of Fire had put an 0.6-mill capital levy on the ballot that, if approved, would provide funds to purchase and maintain firefighting apparatus, ambulances and lifesaving rescue and medical equipment, as well as keep fire stations in shape.

If approved, it would cost $21 annually per $100,000 of home valuation and raise about $600,000 annually.

Mifflin fire Chief Fred Kauser said the delay has a small effect on planning.

"We generally have our budget for the following year, generally complete by July 1," he said. "That's our process. It will just delay planning, depending on what the public vote is."

Melissa Rapp, the township's public information officer, said the delay makes no difference in collecting funds.

"If the delay is to June 2, it doesn't make a difference in collecting if it passes," she said.

"It wouldn't start until January 2021" with or without the delay, she said.

Under the circumstances with coronavirus, Rapp said, she hopes residents see the need for providing equipment for first-responders.

"It happens to be a timely example of needing proper equipment and apparatus that never stops working," she said.

On one hand, Kauser said, the township has the levy out there, but, at the same time, they're the ones responding to public calls for help.

"We agree public health is a greater priority than having that election (on March 17)," he said.

Kauser said fire departments are designed to keep ahead of emergencies.

"We've been working on coronavirus, gearing up for it for more than a month in paying attention to it," he said. "Fire departments are good at planning. Many (poll workers) are in the high-risk category. I personally was relieved with the election delay."

Kauser said despite coronavirus, Mifflin's staff continues to respond to fires, auto accidents and other calls for service.

"People are still experiencing a variety of medical emergencies," he said. "From a fire perspective, it impacts us as an organization, keeping paramedics healthy and working and responding to public requests."

He said it's important the public knows that dispatchers will ask more questions during calls for assistance.

"We're going to respond," he said.

"We're assessing before we get there. It determines how many will respond, what they will wear. We'll ask about their respiratory status and anyone in the family, so our guys can wear the right kind of protective clothing," he said.

Kauser said Mifflin has temporarily suspended public education programs and code enforcement.

"We currently aren't staffing non-essential personnel," he said. "We know this can be a multiple month event."

Kauser said Mifflin is working with every other fire department in the region, as they look out for each other and share services where possible.

"Right now we're operating at full service," he said. "We aren't seeing surges in activity. We're grateful for citizens who are self-managing. We want to remind them, if they have serious medical conditions, don't delay care. Any respiratory difficulty, don't delay care. Everything is business as usual. We're using resource time to prepare in case there's a surge of cases in our region."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla