CENTERBURG — Folks living in the Central Ohio Joint Fire District will vote on a five-year 7.9 mill levy to support the fire and emergency medical services in the district. The levy is a replacement of the current 5.5 mill levy combined with an increase of 2.4 mills.
The current cost to the owner of a home appraised at $100,000 is $192.50 annually. The new levy would cost $276.50 per year.
Fire Chief Joe Porter said the increase is necessary because the fire district has been operating on essentially the same amount of money for the last 12 years although costs have gone up. He also said the population in the area has increased by about 1,600 individuals over the past 10 years.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in our call volume, particularly in medical calls,” Porter said. “In 2001, we had 300 fire and EMS calls. In 2011, there were 960 fire and EMS runs.”
Porter said the district would like to add one or two more people on each shift. “We’re starting to reach the point where we are getting behind. Not only do we have the runs, we have the fire inspections to do. To improve the service we have to ask for more money,” he said.
General expenses have also steadily increased. “We’ve gotten hit just like everybody else,” Porter said. “Fuel costs are way up, and so is the cost of maintaining and replacing equipment that’s needed. The first fire truck that we bought when we became a fire district in 2000 was just over $200,000. The one we bought in 2009, which is essentially the same pumper truck, was $330,000. The first ambulance that we bought in this century, in 2004, we paid $102,000 for. The second one, which we bought in 2006, was $130,000. We’re going to have to replace the 2004 truck because it has 140,000 miles on it and it’s flat worn out. Its replacement is going to be somewhere between $120,000 and $150,000. For the firefighting gear we wear to go into burning buildings, prices in 2000 were about $1,200 for the coat and pants. Now it’s between $1,800 and $2,000 for the coat and pants. The air packs in 2001 were around $1,700 to $1,800 each. Now the stuff that you buy is about four grand per person.”
Porter said there are also increased costs associated with fire prevention duties, liability insurance, medical supplies and radio equipment which needs to be replaced to meet new FCC regulations.