By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
RAWSON — A joint fire district in southern Hancock County would equalize the cost of providing fire protection to three villages and three townships, a representative of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association told residents Tuesday night.
Some residents in the area “are not paying equal or their fair share. Some people are subsidizing others’ fire protection that they receive,” said Stan Crosley, who manages the association’s consulting division.
The Fire Chiefs’ Association completed a feasibility study about creating a joint fire district that would include the Rawson, Mount Cory and Jenera volunteer fire departments.
Results of that study were presented in a meeting Tuesday night at Cory-Rawson High School.
The study’s cost was covered by a $15,000 grant from the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation.
In the joint fire district, residents of Jenera, Mount Cory, Rawson, Eagle Township, Union Township and Van Buren Township would pay the same tax rate for fire protection.
But voting on a tax levy wouldn’t be the first step toward establishing the district.
Each participating village or township would first adopt a resolution to join; choose a representative for the fire district’s board; have meetings to choose a fire district chair, fiscal officer and fire chief; set a starting date; and decide the millage for the levy that would go before voters, Crosley said.
One resident asked what would happen if the district was formed, but the levy failed.
Operations would then continue as they currently are, Crosley said.
The OFCA estimated that the district’s first-year budget would be $142,875. The OFCA figured $14,675 for personnel, $89,200 for contracts and materials, $6,000 for supplies, $17,000 for capital equipment and $16,000 for the district fiscal office.
A 1.5-mill levy, plus anticipated contracts and fundraising, would bring in about $159,000 a year, the OFCA estimated. The levy would replace current funding for the separate departments. The budget amounts are based on all six entities joining the district.
But the fire district could be created with fewer participants. Or, part of a township could be included and part of a township could be left out.
“You can create that district boundary wherever you want it to be,” Crosley said.
Jenera Fire Chief Matt Boehm had previously said the district would include all of Union Township, nearly all of Van Buren Township and a little more than half of Eagle Township.
Some in Eagle Township are opposed.
“I’ve had a lot of residents of Eagle Township tell me, ‘Don’t join the fire district,'” Eagle Township Trustee Dave Bower said.
Bower said he was against the possibility of voters in other townships and villages having an impact on whether Eagle Township residents pay a tax.
“If we want to have a fire levy, let’s do it in Eagle Township,” he said.
But Union Township/Mount Cory Fire Chief Grant Peterson told him, “At some point you’re going to contract for fire service because you have no fire departments.”
Loss of control by individual entities is the primary disadvantage of a fire district, Crosley said. A village or township would have one representative on the district board, rather than councils or township trustees making decisions.
The main advantage is long-term savings.
“Now the first few years of operation may not result in a cost savings,” Crosley said. “But essentially, down the road, once you get stable, and up and running, and get control of everything, and get long-term plans in place, then you have cost savings down the road. Because you’re going to have economy of scale and you’re going to reduce the amount of duplication that goes on at this point.”
Currently, residents of Union Township pay a 1.5-mill levy for fire protection by the Rawson and Mount Cory fire departments. The villages of Rawson and Mount Cory also help support those two departments.
Jenera’s fire department is supported by the village’s general fund, and by contributions from the general funds of Eagle and Van Buren townships.
Van Buren Township contracts with Jenera Fire Department for fire protection. Eagle Township contracts for services with Union Township, Arlington and Jenera.