Wednesday, April 18, 2018 (Brookville Star) - Fire levy committee meets

(by Kay Dawson, Star Contributing Writer)


CLAY TOWNSHIP - The committee to support the Clay Township fire levy, organized by trustee Jeff Requarth, met on Monday, April 9, to discuss how to address public misunderstanding about the fire levy support the May 8 ballot in Clay Township, Phillipsburg, Brookville and Verona. The measure narrowly failed last November.

Phillipsburg Fire Chief Matt Rhoades felt a major problem was confusing ballot language last fall.

"As it appeared on the ballot, it said it would cost 35 cents per $100 of valuation, and it sounded like a lot," he said.

Clay Township Trustee Steve Woolf agreed, saying, "They don't understand that for tax purposes the valuation is on third the total value of the property."

Woolf also expressed concern about the effect Good Samaritan Hospital's closing will have on area emergency services. Ron Fletcher, Brookville fire chief (who could not attend the meeting), had told him the shorter time to the expanded Good Samaritan facility would balance the longer runs made to Miami Valley Hospital with cardiac and other critical cases, but Woolf questioned this.

"Good Samaritan North is adding a 35-bed unit. It can't absorb all the emergency runs around here. This will change our call time, and we may need a third medic unit or we may not be available for mutual aid."

Rhoades said he would check into the mutual aid used in the area, and Brookville City Manager Gary Burkholder said he would get similar figures from the Brookville Department.

He also said a lot of people in the area don't understand the fire protection system, under which Clay Township has no fire department of its own but pays Brookville, Phillipsburg and Verona for protection. Also, many people with Brookville addresses don't understand that they really live in Clay Township.

Paraphrasing the seventeenth-century poet John Donne, Burkholder said, "No community is an island. We all need each other."

Cheryl Crabtree, mayor of Phillipsburg, said the levy is especially needed in Phillipsburg as the village doesn't have the Brookville's financial resources to finance its fire department. "Many of our residents are retired and don't pay income tax, and we don't have much business income," she said, noting that the village's EMTs still have to respond to a lot of overdoses because of its location on a major highway.

The committee agreed to send out mailers explaining the relationship between the jurisdictions and comparing the increase in operating budgets and costs over the last five year. There has been no increase in fire levy money for the last 10 or 11 years).

"Even if Brookville got all the money," Burkholder said, "We couldn't provide all the service. This shouldn't be political."

Woolf pointed out that paying for the fire department is like paying for auto insurance.

"You may pay $400 a quarter for years and never use it. But if have an accident, your need it right then."