Franklin Township voters narrowly approved the township’s fire protection tax levy by less than 200 votes on Nov. 4. Votes tallied 1,462 for the levy versus 1,281 voters against the issue.
Township trustees and fire department officials said passing the levy allows the township to provide the same level of service they are currently receiving as well as stave off any staff reductions or service changes that might have affected the township.
Fire Chief Richard Howard was elated with the good news for his department.
"I’ll be able to breathe again," said Howard. "I have a budget and I’ll have to sit down with my board and the union and we’re going to have to still prioritize the needs for the safety of the public and safety of the firemen, because even though we won we still have to be frugal with our money and continue to stretch this out."
Chairman Tim Guyton said he was not sure how the vote was going to go and has a lot of respect for all those who voted, both for and against the issue.
"There were a lot of ‘nay’ votes but there were more ‘yay’ votes. As far as the ‘nay’ votes, if there was any other way we could’ve done this, we would’ve, but there’s no other resource but to go back to the taxpayers," said Guyton.
Guyton did not answer whether he was surprised by the outcome but did say he was hopeful that the fire department’s efforts on educating the public would pay off.
"I think it was the hard work of the fire department because they were the ones who did the campaigning. And enough of the residents saw the need for additional funding, and that’s a no-brainer," said Guyton.
Howard said with the money from the levy, the fire department’s money issues should be back in the black for at least a few years. He also hopes the department will finally get to address issues that have been put on the backburner.
"I feel like with the extra money and what we’ve done to save tax money we’ll be able to do more things with the money we have coming in. We’ll be able to do things to save money like preventative maintenance instead of allowing things to go bad," he said.
Howard also believes the passage of this levy may encourage more businesses to come to the Westside.
"If you lose your police and you lose your fire department, what services do you have to give someone to move into this area? With this stuff, it gives the township an opportunity to attract the business community and for the township to improve; and it all goes hand in hand," he added.
Lt. Chris Grile, a fireman who was also a heavy campaigner for the levy, said the passage is a huge weight off the department’s shoulders.
"There’s a lot of members here that were really anxious to find out the results and we’re just glad the citizens find value in the service we provide and we’re just happy to provide it," said Grile.
He said one of the firemen recently retired, and if the levy did not pass, the position would have been eliminated, creating a staff shortage, so the firemen are very grateful that situation was averted.
"We just want to take an opportunity to thank our citizens for the vote of confidence they have in us and we’ll continue to provide the best service and we look forward to growing with our citizens and being a part of this community," said Grile.