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Published: Sunday, 5/1/2005

Sylvania Twp. plea to fund 4 new fire stations sparks area debate

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania and Sylvania Township residents will decide Tuesday whether to approve three levies, including two for their joint fire department.

The department seeks a 1.1-mill capital improvements levy and a 2.95-mill levy for operations.

Sylvania Senior Center is seeking approval of a 0.45-mill, five-year operating levy. The measure would replace a 0.32 mill levy set to expire soon.

Fire officials say both levies are necessary to continue the fire district's level of service.

The capital improvements levy is designed to raise $1.1 million and allow the department to move from three stations that officials say are inadequate to three to be built on new sites. It will also allow the township to build another station at a site in the district's northwest portion.

The operating levy, among other things, will allow the department to hire nine firefighters now and to hire nine more later so the proposed station can be fully manned.

A citizens' group known as Citizens for Accountable Taxation has organized to oppose the levies. Critics praise the department but say they object to the planning process. They have also questioned how the township trustees run the department, and objected to the total amount of millage sought.

Township officials have acknowledged that the levy request may seem like a large amount, but argue that the needs have been established through professional and community studies.

John Borell, Sr., a chairman of the committee supporting the levy requests, said he agrees with the critics when they say the issue is not about the fire department. He said it is about citizens' safety and the department's ability to meet the needs of a growing community.

Sylvania City Council voted to remain neutral on the issue, although most members voiced criticism. Some on council argue that senior citizens on fixed incomes may have to leave the community if the levies pass.

Among the groups supporting the issues are the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce, the Olander Park System, and the Sylvania Area Community Improvement Corp.

If passed, the two fire issues will cost the owner of a $200,000 an additional $248.20.

The senior center levy is for funds to run the building that opened in 2002. Activities have been supported by a 0.32-mill levy, which was passed five years ago and is expiring. Claire Proctor, director of Sylvania Community Services, which oversees the center, said officials are asking for a levy of 0.45 mills this time.

The original levy, she noted, was passed before the building opened and before its real operating costs could be gauged. About 300 seniors use the facility each day, which is an increase of about 80 percent since the center was housed in the Burnham Building, she said.

The owner of a $200,000 home now pays $15 a year on the senior levy. If this measure passes, that homeowner would pay $27.56 annually.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com or

419-724-6096.



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