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Ballot issues for schools, fire, mental health services

August 26, 2011
By Sam Shawver - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Four fire and emergency protection levies are among the nine levy proposals Washington County voters will have to consider on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Mary June Smith, of Newport, said she has no doubts about supporting the continuation of a 1.5-mill levy for the Newport Volunteer Fire Department.

"I fell in my yard and broke my leg recently and they were here right away," she said. "When you're in your 80s and need help, that's important. So I will support (the levy)."

The replacement or renewal levies represent financial lifelines for area volunteer fire departments that are constantly struggling to make ends meet, members said.

"It's a major part of funding our day-to-day operations," said Clyde King, chief of the Wesley Township Volunteer Fire Department.

"We do tons of fundraising events, too, but the replacement levy represents about half of our annual expenses," he said.

Fact Box

On the November ballot

Proposed levies on the 2011 general election ballot:

Frontier Local School District-0.75 percent on earned income.

Washington County-0.85-mill replacement levy for senior services.

Washington County-1-mill levy for mental health services.

Fearing Township-1-mill replacement levy for fire and emergency protection.

Muskingum Township (East)-1.5-mill renewed levy for fire and emergency protection.

Newport Township-1.5-mill replacement levy for fire and emergency protection.

New Matamoras Village-2-mill replacement levy for current operating expenses.

Wesley Township-4-mill replacement levy for fire and emergency protection.

Warren Local Schools-5.9-mill additional levy and bond issue for construction.

Source: Washington County Board of Elections

The 4-mill levy township voters will be asked to approve in November will be split 50/50 between the fire department and the township emergency squad, King said, noting each gets about $26,000 from the levy.

But he said with rising fuel and other costs, including equipment maintenance, the department's annual expenses total around $100,000.

"We want to emphasize this is a replacement levy, that's the exact same amount taxpayers have been paying for the last five years-we're not asking for any additional funding," King said.

He said the department doesn't make unnecessary purchases and does what it can to keep costs down but some expenses are unavoidable.

"An upgrade for our turnout gear is coming due soon," King said. "That's a cost of between $1,500 and $1,800 per set."

The department's fleet currently includes an engine and tanker, a brush truck, and two rescue squad units.

Fearing Township voters are also being asked to approve a 1-mill levy for continued support of the Fearing Township Volunteer Fire Department.

"We always do support the levy," said Ellen Stark of Whipple.

"I haven't needed the service personally but family-wise we have. I plan to vote for it again," she said.

Fearing VFD president Mike Moore said that replacement levy, too, is a continuation of what township taxpayers have been funding for the last five years and represents no increase.

"This levy was put on in the 1970s and we've never had to raise it-something we're really proud of," Moore said. "We're also one of the few departments that does not charge for rescue squad runs."

He said the Fearing department also receives about half of its operating funds through the levy.

"We bought a used rescue squad unit from Little Hocking recently and would like to use some of the levy funding to put some equipment in it," Moore said.

"About two-thirds of our runs are squad runs and it takes a lot of dollars every year to maintain those units with supplies and equipment."

He said the Fearing department has one rescue squad unit, a fire pumper and tanker and a brush truck.

"A lot of training is also required for firefighters and EMTs, which takes a big toll on volunteer departments," he added. "And we try to be of service to our township as well as provide mutual aid to surrounding volunteer fire companies."

Other fire and emergency protection levies on the November ballot will include Muskingum Township (East), for a 1.5-mill renewal levy; as well as the 1.5-mill replacement levy for the Newport Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Neither of those levies would increase the amount currently being funded by taxpayers.



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