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Published: 10/17/2007

Sylvania braces for fire levy's outcome

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If only residents in the city of Sylvania approve a 1.5-mill fire levy Nov. 6, they won't have to pay the additional tax.

Sylvania Council has decided that the city will not collect the levy monies unless a 1.5-mill fire levy initiative passes in both the city and Sylvania Township.

It wouldn't be fair, officials said, for city residents to bear the sole burden of supporting the Sylvania Township Fire Department when all residents of the township receive the benefit of the department.

Council has set a special meeting to be held the day after the election to discuss what steps to take if the 1.5-mill levy passes only in the city.

Councilman Doug Haynam said it would be appropriate for the city and township to come to a mutual understanding of how the funds would be spent.

According to Supporters for a Safe Sylvania, the grass-roots organization which succeeded in getting the 1.5-mill, five-year fire levies on the ballot in the city and township, the levies would generate sufficient funds to restore the fire department's emergency transport unit and rehire five firefighters. Trustees cutback staff and eliminated the transport unit last year to offset a projected deficit in the fire department's budget.

However, Sylvania Township Trustee DeeDee Liedel said during council's meeting Monday night there are no plans to rehire full-time firefighters.

It's anticipated the township will develop a volunteer staff, she said, noting that it is expensive to continue to use the current system of staffing the department with full-time firefighters. Volunteers on the fire department are paid but not at the rate of a full-time firefighter.

Sylvania Township Fire Chief Fred Welsh is putting together a plan to recruit and maintain volunteers, she said.

During the meeting, Councilman Haynam asked Mike Brown, co-chairman of Supporters for a Safe Sylvania, if the group would expect the city to demand an agreement with the trustees calling for restoration of the staff and transport unit in return for the city handing over the money to the township.

Councilman John Borell, Jr., said he shares the group's goal to restore the transport unit, but said unless a mechanism is in place to get funds to the township, he won't vote to collect the money.

Mr. Haynam said it would best serve the city by having an agreement with the township, but noted it's unrealistic to expect an agreement to be reached in a couple of days or a couple of weeks.

Council asked James Moan, the city's law director, to discuss the issues with trustees, and then council can review the situation during the special meeting on Nov. 7.

Voters in the city and township will decide two other issues, both placed on the ballot by Sylvania Township trustees: a 0.5-mill operating levy for the fire department and a 0.5-mill bond issue for new fire stations and equipment.

Trustees last month voted to oppose the 1.5-mill levies. According to the trustees' resolution, any new revenue in excess of the 0.5-mill operating levy placed on the fall ballot by the trustees would be unnecessary.

Also, the resolution contends there is no funding mechanism in place for the township to receive proceeds from the city, and there is "extreme uncertainty" as to what would happen unless both entities approve the 1.5-mill levies.



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