By Amanda Ensinger
According to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections, the Franklin Township fire levy passed.
The levy was approved with 1,576 or 55 percent in favor of the levy and 1,295 or 45 percent against the levy.
The 5.89-mill replacement levy will increase residents’ property taxes by approximately $33 a year per $100,000 home. However, according to the Franklin County Auditor, the average price of homes in the township is between $60,000 and $70,000.
“This levy will replace the existing levy that is set to expire 2021,” said Mark Potts, township administrator. “This replacement levy will generate $972,105 a year for the fire department.”
This is the second time the township tried to pass a fire levy. In the spring they tried to pass a 19.5-mill township-wide permanent levy for the fire department, but that levy failed.
“The last time we tried for a levy there was group that ran a campaign spreading misinformation about the levy,” said Franklin Township Fire Chief James Welch. “I believe that is the reason the levy failed.”
Other township leadership believe the levy failed last time because they were asking for a township-wide levy.
“I think the fact that we tried to do a township-wide levy was a large part of why the levy failed,” Potts said. “Residents in Valleyview were really against this and about 112 people from that area came out to vote in the last election and about 105 of them voted against the levy. This was a big factor in why it failed.”
Leadership said if the fire levy failed again, the township was going to have to make some tough decisions about the fire department, including more potential layoffs and putting vehicles out of service.
However, with the levy passing, the township still is looking at reducing its staff. The department needs to have only 29 firefighters by the end of the year. Last year at this time they had 39 firefighters.
“When the trustees voted to put this levy on the ballot, they agreed to have only two medics and one fire engine,” Welch said. “They also agreed to reduce our staff to 29. This was the most affordable option to get a levy passed and have the least impact financially on residents.”
The township plans to keep both fire stations open, but to have one medic and one fire truck at Sullivant Avenue and only one medic at Frank Road.
“We will still be a 24/7 fire department, but we may not be able to respond to emergencies as quickly as we normally could,” Welch added. “We will have to rely on mutual aid when we can’t get to an emergency.”
The department hopes to not have to do layoffs and has instead just not been filling position when someone leaves. He also added that this will be the smallest staff the department has had in at least 15 years.
“I always hope we can go back to what we have always had,” he said. “However, we have to figure out a way to makeup funding we have lost from the state, which will be difficult.”