By Amanda Amsel
As the Franklin Township Fire Department moves forward with a proposed 5.89-mill levy, the fire department association plans to start financing an education campaign for township residents.
“We haven’t officially started the campaign yet, but it will focus on stressing the importance of this levy,” said Chas Adams, assistant fire chief for the Franklin Township Fire Department. “We need residents to understand if the levy doesn’t pass, we are in trouble.”
The association plans to spend approximately $3,000 on the education campaign and is saying this is their last effort to pass a fire levy in the township.
The department is asking for a five-year timed levy that would generate $850,000 a year. If the levy fails, the department would close station 193 on Frank Road and at least 10 firefighters would be laid off.
Right now, the department is able to sustain both fire houses because it received the SAFER Grant in 2015 for $1.4 million. This grant allowed the department to hire 10 full-time staff members and paid for their salary and benefits until 2017. After 2017, the grant will be gone and the township will not be able to afford these firefighters.
However, besides the 10 SAFER Grant hires, Franklin Township Fire Chief Jim Welch thinks the department could lose even more staff.
“If a levy isn’t passed, we will be laying off 14 to 16 guys so we can live within our means,” Welch said. “After the grant runs out, we don’t have the budget to support the firefighters we hired under this or other staff we currently have.”
If the levy is passed, township residents are looking at paying an extra $120 a year per $100,000 home. However, according to the trustees most of the homes in the township are valued at less than $100,000.
In an effort to communicate this, Adams said they plan on kicking off an integral public awareness campaign in September, October and November.
“We want to have public meetings, go door to door, pass out flyers and everything else we have done in the past,” Adams said.
Adams said they also are going to show residents exactly how much this levy will cost them; something that he said may not have been communicated as clearly in the past. Utilizing charts that easily show how much your house is worth and the levy amount, he hopes residents will understand that over the course of a year this isn’t as expensive as they may think.
“This is make it or break it for this fire department,” Adams said. “If this levy doesn’t pass, it is not going to be good for this department or the township.”
Officials warn of a dramatic increase in response times and possible ramifications on the homeowner’s insurance if the levy doesn’t pass.
“If you want to continue to have the service you are used to, you will support this levy,” said Don Cook township trustee. “If the levy doesn’t pass, I can guarantee longer response times in waiting for emergency services.”
No dates for public meetings have been set yet and all the trustees don’t agree with the association having public meetings.
“Last time we had public meetings, no one showed up,” Cook said. “I feel like it is a waste of money and time because no one comes.”
The association plans to finalize their education campaign plans by mid September.