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Published: Thursday, 11/22/2007

Sylvania Township mulls future fire funding

BY MIKE JONES
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

Although the Sylvania Township Fire Department's need for funding remains in the wake of voters' rejection of three levy requests, it may take awhile before trustees arrive at a plan to remedy the situation.

DeeDee Liedel, president of the township trustees, said she is taking time and talking to leaders involved in the situation, before recommending how the trustees should proceed.

Two levies of 0.5 mill each proposed by the trustees and another levy of 1.5 mills based on a citizens' initiative were defeated by Sylvania Township voters in the election earlier this month.

Ms. Liedel said a levy request in the coming year is possible, but no decision will be made before a consensus is formed.

Before the election, the trustees passed a resolution by 2-1 to oppose the 1.5-mill levy, which was put on the ballot by Supporters for a Safe Sylvania. Other than making presentations to some groups, the trustees didn't campaign for their levy proposals, nor was a committee formed to support the trustees' levy requests.

The issue proposed by Safe Sylvania passed in the city, but failed in the township. It had to pass in each jurisdiction to take effect, based on a decision by City Council.

If the votes were taken together, the initiative would have passed by a very narrow margin, according to unofficial results from the Lucas County Board of Elections.

The two levies proposed by the trustees, one for operations and the other for capital improvements, were soundly defeated in both jurisdictions.

Prior to the election a number of people admitted they were confused by the issues and in an e-mail after the elections, Ms. Liedel described the election as a "debacle."

The e-mail stressed the need for compromise and the need for reaching a "consensus regarding the operations of the fire department."

In an interview later, she said, "We want all of the stakeholders at the table," but added that too many people can cause a stalemate and make it hard for anything to be accomplished.

Chris Nye, president of the firefighters' union, said he's glad Ms. Liedel wants to discuss the issue and agrees that all stakeholders should be at the table before a decision is made on how to proceed.

The city of Sylvania is undeniably a stakeholder because its fire and rescue service is provided by the township department.

Mayor Craig Stough said he has met with the township administrator and fire chief and expects to receive a copy of the township's proposed budget for fire operations for next year.

Ms. Liedel has said there will be sufficient funding available through 2008 to continue fire service at its current level.

The mayor noted that a levy will have to be passed next year, if additional funds are to be available in 2009.

He said he is pleased to be invited to be involved in the decision-making process and pointed out that he had not been consulted prior to the levy proposals being placed on the fall ballot.

Even before the election, he had said that the issues show there is an agreement by the trustees and the Safe Sylvania group that "additional funding is necessary" for the fire department.

The mayor said the chore now is to find a number that makes sense before returning to the voters.

Ms. Liedel said that in a move toward an agreement she had a "long lunch" with Mike Brown, head of the citizens' group that collected signatures on petitions to place their 1.5-mill issue on the ballots.

Mr. Brown said he was still "letting things settle" and had no specific comment on what direction the group might take.

Whatever activity will be undertaken will be decided in the next few weeks, he added.

The group had reacted to the trustees' layoff of five firefighters and ending the township's emergency transport service.

Ms. Liedel had said prior to the election that there were no specific plans for use of the money if the larger levy request passed.



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