Clinton and Dover townships are asking the City of Wauseon for its blessing to split from their current EMS contract with Fulton County if the county won’t increase the townships’ revenue from an operating levy due for renewal next year.
At a City Council meeting held Monday, Clinton Township Trustee Ivan Hite told Council members the districts don’t agree with the Fulton County Commissioners’ opinion that EMS contract discussions should wait until after the Nov. 3 general election. He said the commissioners are so adamant about waiting, “don’t expect them at your upcoming meetings.”
The two townships are asking the county to allot them all of the approximately $950,000 in revenue collected in their district by the continuing EMS levy, should it pass for another five-year term. The levy expires Dec. 31, 2021.
According to the current contract, the district receives $650,000 annually, an amount it negotiated with the county as necessary to operate its EMS program. Hite said Monday the district needs the increase due to rising operating costs.
The EMS levy generates $4 million annually and is divided among the county’s EMS districts through negotiations for specifically requested amounts. Clinton and Dover townships recently went back to the table with the commissioners to hash out an increase from the amount they previously agreed upon.
Hite said the commissioners’ reluctance to address the townships’ request until after the election has led the district to propose moving forward with a break from the county contract after it expires, structure and fund its own EMS district, and place the proposal on the February 2021 ballot. He said that will give the district flexibility to operate its own district in its own jurisdiction.
“Apparently, (the commissioners) don’t want to give us an answer, so we have to be proactive in getting something in place and move forward with that as a plan,” Hite told Council members. “This will give us options in regard to being able to run a jurisdiction the way we’re running it now, where nothing is really broken.”
He added, “We’re just ready to be the model for Fulton County …for doing this EMS/fire district in mind and funding it ourself…We’re not trying to be an island. We’re going to work with the county…We’re not changing anything other than the funding mechanism. We will be the actual people to run the levy, and that’s the difference here.”
Hite said the district’s proposed levy would remain at 4 mills.
When Councilor Harold Stickley asked if Wauseon residents would pay both the county tax and the district’s proposed tax, Hite said it wouldn’t be in the county’s best interests to operate a levy over the proposed levy.
“The constituents wouldn’t be very happy about that. Could it happen? Yeah…But more than likely we could work out an agreement with the commissioners,” he said. “We’re in uncharted waters. If we don’t move forward with this we’re going to have to accept the option given to us by the county.”
Proposing a separate district offers Clinton and Dover townships many options, including contracting with other Fulton County townships, Hite said.
Wauseon Mayor Kathy Huner said neither service nor operations in the townships would change, “we’re just changing the flow of what’s collected in Clinton Township.” She said moving the proposal forward is imperative in order to meet goals for a separate district before the current contract expires next year.
Hite added, “The only difference is the funding mechanism. We would be the vehicle to drive the levy, where right now it’s the commissioners.”
The townships’ proposal comes at a time when the county commissioners have proposed that they take the helm and oversee all of the county’s EMS programs under a collective agreement with all county townships. However, Gorham Township will also propose a separate district.
A second presenter at Monday’s meeting, energy consultant Amy Hoffman of Palmer Energy Co., told the council the Ohio Municipal League, of which Wauseon is a member, can obtain competitive pricing for the city’s electric aggregation after the city’s contract with Energy Harbor expires in July 2021.
During a lengthy discussion, Hoffman said request proposals will be sent to up to a dozen potential suppliers at the start of 2021. She said a new supplier could benefit Wauseon residents and small commercial businesses that use less than 700,000 kilowatt hours annually. Residents will have the the opportunity to opt out of a new program.
Hoffman said additional information will be provided to the city, and discussion will continue.
In other business, Council members passed a motion to approve the Finance Committee’s recommendation to place Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act federal funds the city received in a Coronavirus Budget Fund.
Committee member Steve Schneider said that at a Sept. 29 meeting Finance Director Jamie Giguere briefly discussed the funds the city has received, additional funds expected, and the funds already spent. She told the committee city police and fire wages, including for dispatch, can be paid through the fund through December. Giguere also presented a city “wish list” for items the funds can cover.
Giguere also said the city could receive a portion of CARES Act funds other municipalities don’t spend.
Schneider said Public Service Director Keith Torbet advised the committee the city will use its capital fund to replace a storm water line between Leggett Street and an adjoining ditch.
In department reports:
• Assistant Fire Chief Phil Kessler announced the department would work with various outreach organizations during the ongoing Fire Prevention Week.
• Police Chief Kevin Chittenden said the city will host a Drug Take-Back Day on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. outside Walmart, 485 E. Airport Hwy. Residents can drop off unused prescription pills for proper disposal.
Chittenden said there’s also a 24-hour drop-off site in the the police department’s lobby at 230 Clinton St.
• Public Service Director Keith Torbet said the city’s recent fall clean-up event filled 29 containers. He said doors closed at noon on the event’s last day, but receipt of clean-up items didn’t end until 3 p.m.
Torbet said leaf pick-up begins the end of October, at which time brush pick-up will be suspended until after the first of the year.
He also reported that city chemical bids will be announced by mail and newspaper postings, and will open in November.
• Law Director Tom McWatters III said his office continues working on EMS contracts and has had successful bargaining sessions with firefighters.
He added that surfacing on Indian Hill Trails adjacent to Homecoming Park is being completed. He said there has been discussion of placing trail signs that include maps and distances.
Council members passed the first reading of a resolution to amend the city’s Annual Appropriation Ordinance by authorizing the director of finance to increase or decrease some line account appropriations within various funds in the Coronavirus Budget Fund within the year 2020; passed a second reading of an ordinance amending a section of the city’s codified ordinances pertaining to the Rotary Park pond; and passed a second reading of an ordinance to amend a codified city ordinance pertaining to resident income tax credit.
In new business, Council passed a motion to waive any hearing before the Fulton County Budget Commission regarding apportionment of the Undivided Local Government Fund, agreeing to a Fulton County Budget Commission alternate plan of apportionment of the fund, and agreeing to accept $123,540.56 as the city’s share of the fund.
Council also approved a motion to allow the director of public service to use an unencumbered balance in the Public Works Capital Account to make improvements on the storm sewer line between Leggett Street and an adjoining ditch.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.