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Reno VFD will offer 2 levies

1 to fund daytime operation; 2nd to fund 24/7 service

June 5, 2012
By Kevin Pierson - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

A levy to support around-the-clock emergency squad service for the Reno Volunteer Fire Department will be one of two proposed levies to appear on the November ballot.

After a nearly two-hour meeting Monday night with about 40 people in attendance, officials with the department elected to place a 1-mill renewal levy to fund daytime operation of the squad on the ballot along with a levy to cover the difference needed for full-time operation.

To support around-the-clock EMS service, Reno residents will have to vote for both levies.

The idea of separate levies was reached based on feedback from residents after a 3.25-mill levy to support full-time EMS was rejected by 66 votes in the March primary election.

With the failure of that levy, the funding for the department's current day-time squad was also lost.

On the second ballot attempt, community members wanted to have the option to renew the old levy at no additional cost, even though most in attendance Monday indicated their support for full-time service.

Fact Box

What was decided

- A 1-mill renewal levy to fund daytime operation of the Reno Volunteer Fire Department emergency squad will be placed on the November ballot.

- A separate levy will be placed on the ballot to cover the difference between the 1-mill renewal levy and the amount needed to fund 24 hours a day, seven day a week emergency squad service.

- Eight community members formed a levy committee, which will meet Thursday at the Reno fire department, to begin preparing for a levy campaign.

"Are you willing to lose everything and not have anything at the end of the year?" asked Chris Hall, a firefighter with the city of Marietta.

"I don't want to take a chance on losing it," answered Reno Volunteer Fire Chief Dan Ritchey.

The current 1-mill levy has been operating at an effective rate of 0.92 mills and will raise $78,862 for the department next year. It costs the owner of a $100,000 home $28.27 over the year.

Millage for the second levy was not immediately clear Monday evening after the meeting, as department representatives plan to meet with Marietta Ambulance Services to determine the exact amount needed to cover the difference. It is believed to be about 2.25 to 2.5 mills, Ritchey said.

Officials with the department plan to return the renewal levy to the ballot, even though they warn that with the phase out of the personal property tax it will generate less income to the department.

Even if the 1-mill renewal levy were to pass, due to the loss of the personal property tax there will be a cutback in the amount of hours provided by the squad.

Currently, the department has a paid daytime squad operating 12 hours each day, seven days a week. The renewal levy will only pay for roughly 8.75 hours, five days a week, Ritchey said.

Right now, the department pays roughly $11,435 each month in its contract with Marietta Ambulance Services. To fund full-time EMS service, the department will need to generate approximately $25,000 each month, Ritchey said.

"Knowing that you have security for that period, the cost is very little," said Reno resident Fred Boyd, of Holiday Drive.

Gary Worstell, 74, of Browns Road, Reno, needed the services of the Reno emergency squad in November 1993 when he suffered a heart attack. Upon arrival at the hospital, Worstell said he actually went into cardiac arrest, so he's in full support of the squad.

"If they weren't there, I wouldn't be here today," Worstell said.

One of the complaints officials said they heard surrounding the levy was with the fact the department also received third-party billing.

Some residents felt the department was double-dipping by asking for a levy and receiving third-party billing, but that's simply not the case, Ritchey said.

The department picked up third-party billing at the behest of the community several years back, and has used it to avoid having to ask for additional funds, he said.

"Third-party billing for us was a stop gap so we didn't have to come back to you two or three years ago," said Jeremy Patterson, president of the Reno Volunteer Fire Department.

Third-party billing generated an additional $46,000 for the department last year, but without the ability to make runs those funds are not received, Ritchey warned.

After hearing the discussion, residents indicated a desire to move ahead with the dual levies, and an eight-member committee was formed to help publicize the levy. That committee plans to meet Thursday at the station house.

Additional information on the two levies will be available this month, and at the Reno Volunteer Fire Department ice cream social on July 28.

"It would behoove those of us that want to see this levy passed to go to the people," said Jean Eshelman, of Reno.



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