(Posted Nov. 21, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Somerford Township is changing its fire protection service provider from the London Fire Department to the Central Townships Joint Fire District.
The township trustees took the first step toward that transition on Nov. 14 when they voted unanimously to accept Central Townships’ invitation to become a member of the fire district.
The next step will be to terminate the contract with London. The current contract runs through 2023. Either entity can terminate the contract with a 12-month notice; termination can happen sooner if both parties agree to an alternate date. Bill Laney, Somerford Township trustee, said that by the end of this year, the trustees will submit written notice to London of their desire to terminate the contract.
In October, both Central Townships and London presented proposals to the trustees.
Central Townships invited Somerford Township to become a member of the fire district. Deercreek, Monroe, Oak Run, Paint and Union townships are already part of the district. Each participating township pays 4.75 mills for fire protection and each township board has a voting representative on the fire district board. The Madison County Emergency Medical District (EMD) operates a station out of the Somerford Township hall; the township pays the EMD 3 mills for emergency medical services. Central Townships proposed operating fire services out of the same space, equipping the station with an engine and staffing it with three fire fighters.
London proposed adding emergency medical services (EMS) to the contracted fire services it already provides to Somerford Township. In September, the city split from the EMD and, starting Jan. 1, 2019, will be providing EMS services within the London city limits through the city fire department. Currently, the city provides fire services to Somerford Township for 3.1 mills. The city initially proposed providing the township with fire and EMS services for a total of 5 mills and equipping and staffing the township facility with an engine and three fire fighter/paramedics or fire fighter/EMTs.
Laney said one concern he had about the city’s proposal was that one three-person crew would be handling fire and EMS calls. When the township informed the city they were leaning toward Central Townships’ offer, the city came back with multiple options with different levels of staffing, running from 5 mills to 7.75 mills, said Joe Mosier, the city’s safety-service director. The 7.75 mills is equivalent to what township residents will pay for fire protection from Central Townships and emergency medical services from the EMD.
Before the trustees voted to accept Central Townships’ offer, Laney praised the London Fire Department for the services it has provided to the district.
“They have done a wonderful job. We haven’t had any qualms whatsoever with London,” he said.
After the vote, Laney noted that Somerford Township has contracted with the EMD for emergency medical services since the EMD’s inception 37 years ago.
“We could not see any reason to make a switch,” he said.
As for the membership with Central Townships and representation on the fire district board, he stated, “We have a seat at the table. That’s the big thing.”
When the township’s fire contract with London is terminated, the township will merge into Central Townships’ existing 4.75-mill levy. The difference between what township residents pay now for fire service (3.1 mills) and what they will be paying after the transition (4.75 mills) equates to an additional $57 per year per $100,000 of property valuation, Laney said.
The current Central Townships levy expires at the end of 2021, at which time it will be placed back on the ballot.
The timing of the transition will depend on the agreement made between Somerford Township and London. With a 12-month notice, London would continue to provide fire services to the township through 2019.
Central Townships Chief Brian Bennington said the fire district board will start planning now for the changes to come. The board’s next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 at the Deercreek Township Hall, 75 Middle St., London.
Laney further noted that a merge of the Central Townships Fire District and the Madison County EMD is a possibility down the road. With Somerford joining the fire district, the fire district and the EMD will be serving the same six townships.
The Somerford Township trustees board includes Laney, Jim Moran and Ernie Sparks. The trustees meet at 7 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at the township hall, 91 State Rte. 56 NW (the former Somerford school building).