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Reno VFD faces difficult choices as 3.25-mill levy fails

March 7, 2012
By Kevin Pierson - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

With the failure of a 3.25-mill levy to fund a round-the-clock emergency squad Tuesday by just 66 votes, the Reno Volunteer Fire Department may discontinue squad service or try again at the ballot in November.

The replacement with an increase levy to support emergency services of the Reno VFD failed with 590 votes against it and 524 for it and the result means that after Dec. 31 there will no longer be funds available to support the squad, said fire officials. There are fewer than 10 provisional ballots to count in Marietta Township, so those ballots will not impact the results.

"We've got funding until the end of the year. Then our money will run out," said Reno Volunteer Fire Chief Dan Ritchey.

Included in the 3.25-mill levy before voters on Tuesday was the 1-mill levy that is currently supporting the daytime squad service in use at the department. A 0.5-mill renewal levy that was passed by Marietta Township voters by a final, unofficial count of 714 to 395 during the primary election is not used to support squad services.

Once tho squad service funds are exhausted, if an alternative is not discovered Reno may have to discontinue its emergency medical squad service, Ritchey said.

"People spoke. Evidently they don't want squad service," Ritchey said.

The current levy, which has been operating at an effective rate of 0.92 mills, raises $78,862 for the department and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $28.27 over the course of a year. The new levy would have raised $293,239 for the department and cost that same home owner $99.53 a year, according to the Washington County Auditor's office.

Losing those funds means the department no longer has the capability to continue at its present capacity.

"We're not the government. We can't run in the red," said Reno firefighter Ted Patterson.

While the additional levy failed, there were many in the community that voiced their support of the department, including Bryan Strahler, 43, of Reno, who saw the department in action after a car accident outside his family home took out a culvert as well as Strahler's mailbox and a neighbors' mailbox.

"I (wanted) to see it renewed because it helps the community," Strahler said.

The 0.5-mill levy, which passed, has been operating at an effective rate of 0.46 mills, currently costing the owner of a $100,000 home $14.13 per year and that value will not change, according to figures from the Washington County Auditor's office.

Russ Walters, 53, of Reno, is familiar with the situation of volunteer fire departments as his sister is a volunteer with an emergency squad in Monroe County. He and his wife both cast votes in favor of the levy.

"We talked about it and we'll both be voting for it," he said Tuesday afternoon. "Some of the other levies I don't have the sympathy or so much desire for."

Department officials now must consider whether to put the issue back before voters in November.

The failure of the additional levy was not a total surprise, though it was a disappointment, Ritchey said, and department members plan to meet to discuss what the next step will be.

"We knew now is not a good time to ask for any more money," Ritchey said.

The department cannot rely on mutual aide runs, Ritchey said, because those are an exchange of services and Reno now has less to offer neighboring departments in return.

It is possible to put just the current 1-mill levy supporting daytime squad services back on the ballot for November so the area does not lose its current squad service, or the department could make another effort at the 3.25 mills for round-the-clock service, and risk losing it all.

"We've never had to make a decision like this before," Ritchey said.

At a glance

Final, unofficial results for the Reno Volunteer Fire Department 0.5-mill renewal levy:

For: 714

Against: 395

Final, unofficial results from the Reno Volunteer Fire Department 3.25-mill replacement with an increase levy:

For: 524

Against: 590

Source: Washington County Board of Elections.



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