Ohio fire departments ordered to merge

In a controversial decision, trustees voted in April to disband the town's department and to contract the aid of a neighboring department

By Nolan Rosenkrans
The Blade

SPENCER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — The merger of Spencer Township’s fire department with Springfield’s will mean lower taxes for township residents.

Township trustees voted Oct. 6 to not collect 3.5 mills of property tax levies for fiscal year 2017 because of the reduction in expenditures from the fire service merger, said Trustee Shawn Valentine.

“It's always been my goal to reduce the tax burden,” he said. “When we don't need to collect the revenue, there's no reason for the government to be taking money from the citizens of our township if we don't need it.”

The move doesn’t permanently eliminate the taxes; the township just won’t collect it this fiscal year.

Spencer Township currently receives about $240,000 based on its levies, with about $146,000 a year dedicated to fire services, according to the Lucas County Auditor’s office. Mr. Valentine said the township has three fire levies; two 2-mill levies and a 1.5-mill levy. The reduction in taxes from the trustees’ actions will save owners of a $100,000 home about $50 a year.

Spencer trustees voted 2-0 in April to disband its fire department and contract with Springfield Township, a controversial move. Opponents criticized both the disbandment and how the vote was taken, claiming open-meeting laws were violated.

The Springfield Township Fire Department began operating out of the Spencer firehouse in July.

Trustee Michael Hood voted for the tax reduction, but said he’s still adamantly opposed to the decision to merge the fire department.

“Anytime you can do anything to return resources back to your community and to the taxpayers, you should want to do that,” he said.

He criticized Mr. Valentine for how the decisions to merge were made, and said the community wasn’t able to give its input over the decision. He said that most of the township opposed the decision, and added Mr. Valentine was “hellbent” on dismantling the fire department.

“That was taken away from the people, and it’s wrong,” he said.

He added that he hopes voters will be heard during next year’s elections.

The pair have feuded over the past year. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in August that Mr. Valentine was illegally removed from the board by fellow trustees — including Mr. Hood — in December while he was on military leave with the Ohio Army National Guard.

Spencer had spent about $500,000 annually for its department. The new deal will cost it $128,000 in the first year, with 3 percent annual increases over 10 years. Spencer Township's firehouse will be staffed around the clock with three individuals, including at least one paramedic at all times.

Copyright 2016 The Blade

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