GRANVILLE — After closing a satellite station and reducing the number of personnel on duty, the Refugee-Canyon Joint Fire District is getting help from a neighboring department.
The Granville Township Fire Department will provide mutual aid to the northern portion of Union Township after Granville Township Trustees unanimously approved providing mutual aid during their Jan. 12 meeting. But the department will only do so until April 13.
Trustees Bryn Bird, Rob Schaadt and the newly elected Dan VanNess had a lengthy discussion about the matter and stressed while it was critical to ensure the area is covered, having a deadline was important too.
Bird said Granville should provide mutual aid for the sake of safety and continuity. If Granville did not provide aid, crews from Newark would head to Union Township when calls come in and then Granville firefighters and paramedics would then be covering areas of Newark, she said.
"It is an emergency situation. I agree, I think there has to be a deadline," Bird said. "They need to know where they’re going and where they’re working towards."
Granville Township Fire Chief Casey Curtis said when the department last had a contract to cover Union Township, it went there 80 times over the course of a year. For the three month period the trustees approved, he said the Granville department would make a potential 20 runs and it would not cost the department any more money.
"The only thing it does cost us is wear and tear, fuel and EMS supplies, whatever the case maybe and a lot of that is recuperated in EMS billing," he said during the meeting. "It’s not 100% recuperation, but I mean, it’s a huge chunk, especially the EMS runs that are transported. I don’t see it costing our agency, our township any more money to go down there."
This comes after the Refugee-Canyon Joint Fire District announced in a Dec. 31 letter to residents that effective Jan. 1, the agency would reduce the number of fire and EMS personnel on duty each day from eight to four. They also closed the satellite station located on Ohio 37 in Hebron indefinitely, despite just recently opening it.
The letter stated that the staff reduction and station closure were the direct result of the Union Township fire levy failing twice in 2021. The district's revenues in 2022 will be reduced by $435,000.00, according to the letter.
Granville Township is exploring a fire levy of their own for the May ballot. The trustees approved asked the Licking County Auditor's office for certified millage rates at 2.0, 2.25 and 2.5 mills. Once the auditor provides the rates, the trustees will determine which to send the ballot.
Township Fiscal Officer Jerry Miller said the township has to take this step because the department doesn’t have the volunteers it used to have, it needs an adequate number of personnel to serve the community and costs are rising.
"I think the community has an expectation of what we’re providing to them and we need to be able to fill it," Curtis said.
It would be the first fire levy since 2005, Curtis said, adding that the department was the volunteer corporation at that time.
"The township has operated the fire department as the township for that much time without having to go for more money," he said. "What the volunteer corporation always did is whatever Granville was paying, we would then go to our contractual neighbors and ask them to match."
Casey said the fire department will run out of money by 2024 if the township doesn't act.
Miller made it clear the fire levy is not a result of the new fire station that opened in November 2020.
"The cost of that building is going to be the responsibility of the people who live here today, and the people who will live here 20 years from now are going to be paying for that building on an equal basis, so it’s not that everybody here today has to pay for it," Miller said.
Once the township receives the certified rates, they must approve one and submit it to the Licking County Board of Elections by Feb. 2 to make the May 3 ballot.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Granville trustees approve Union Twp. mutual aid, explore fire levy