Wauseon pursues new EMS district


By David J. Coehrs - dcoehrs@aimmediamidwest.com



The City of Wauseon has taken the next step in creating a new EMS district with Clinton Township for 2022.

City Council on Monday passed an emergency resolution granting Mayor Kathy Huner authority to look into creating a joint fire and ambulance district that would be funded through a five-year tax levy scheduled for the February 2021 ballot.

Council’s approval comes two weeks after Clinton Township Trustee Ivan Hite asked its blessing to consider the formation of a joint fire/EMS district between Clinton and Dover townships. Hite said the townships are ready to pursue a new district after the Fulton County Commissioners refused to discuss an increase in funding for their EMS districts until after the Nov. 3 election.

A continuing, nearly $4 million annual EMS levy through the commissioners generates $950,000 a year from Clinton and Dover townships, but the contract between the entities allots only $650,000 of that amount for yearly operation.

Hite argued at the Oct. 5 City Council meeting that the districts need all of the levy revenue the townships generate due to increasing operational costs. He said it’s unfair to have to make up the difference by dipping into their general fund.

Commissioner Jon Rupp said previously the commissioners want to wait to negotiate a revenue increase until after the election in order to first fill the seat being vacated by Commissioner Bill Rufenacht.

Hite said at the meeting he was representing Dover Township as well in pursuing a new fire/EMS district. The meeting was also attended by Gorham Township Trustee Trevor Hibbard, who later told the Expositor the township is interested in joining the joint endeavor.

Hibbard said previously that Gorham Township receives $260,000 for EMS services annually through the levy, “and that won’t even provide one person for 24/7 coverage.”

Hite and Hibbard both said they must proceed with plans to start a new district if they are to place a levy for it on the February ballot. But they said they’re still hopeful of negotiations with the commissioners.

Huner said Monday that although the city will continue exploring the plan, “that doesn’t mean it can’t change in the end with the county.” She said the plan has to move forward in order to have the proposed district in place by 2022.

She said a new district doesn’t mean a change in the amount of money Clinton Township citizens are currently paying. She said it simply allows the township to receive the full revenue of a levy it would place, rather than the percentage the county allots through its contract.

“Nothing has changed with anything. It’s just a matter of the money source, as far as it going either through the county or as a levy through Clinton Township,” she said.

Huner said the city approves of a new district because “what Clinton Township collects we would like to retain. And the way the contract is written now, we were getting a percentage of that, plus we were getting a percentage of the run calls. In order for us to maintain our department and our citizens and give them the same care…we want to be able to quit taking out of the general fund from the city to make it work.”

Current contracts between the county and its 12 fire/EMS districts expire Dec. 31, 2021. The commissioners recently proposed a new contract for the districts that would place them entirely under the county’s purview.

In other business, Council members passed an emergency resolution approving a letter of intent between the city, the Ohio Municipal League Service Corporation, and OML Energy Solutions to potentially buy solar-generated energy and enter into a related electric consulting agreement.

The resolution notes that entering into a letter of intent for energy generated by solar facilities “may decrease the cost of electricity for the citizens of Wauseon.”

In a Tree Commission report, member Patrick Griggs said plans continue for the city to host a Tree City USA banquet April 21, 2021.

At an Oct. 14 meeting, commission members discussed planting trees along streets, in city parks, at the Indian Hills corridor, and at Wauseon Middle School.

In department reports:

• Police Chief Kevin Chittenden reminded citizens that a Drug Take-Back Day for the proper disposal of unused or unwanted prescription pills will be held Saturday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Walmart, 485 E. Airport Hwy. Drugs can also be placed in a 24-hour drop box at the police station at 230 Clinton St.

Chittenden said Halloween trick-or-treating is still scheduled Oct. 31 between 6-7:30 p.m. He asked citizens to follow CDC guidelines when approaching houses, and suggested they accept only individually packaged candies, no homemade treats.

He also asked motorists to be mindful that evening of children. “Just take extra time – slow down,” he said.

• Public Service Director Keith Torbet said a grant application the city filed with the Ohio Public Works Commission has reached the second round of deliberation. If awarded, the $300,000 grant would pay part of the cost of renovating South Brunell Street.

Torbet said batting cages are being constructed at the north ball field complex at Dorothy B. Biddle Park through a donation from the Wauseon Recreation Association. Concrete work has been completed, and batting cages and netting will be installed in the next few weeks.

He said a storm sewer project has begun from Leggett Street to a ditch behind the Indian Meadows long-term care facility. “We have an engineer, so now we can take care of that portion before we get the new piping in on Brunell Street,” Torbet said.

He also reported that divers were used at the city’s water treatment plant to inspect the clear well and inlets at the city reservoir.

And Water Reclamation Plant Supervisor Clem Kutzli arranged for two photos of the plant to be included in a 2021 calendar.

• Law Director Tom McWatters III told Council members the next step in creating a new fire/EMS district is to retain outside legal counsel “to walk us through the process of getting the district formed.”

Council members also passed third readings on ordinances to amend codified city ordinances regarding the Rotary Park pond and resident income tax credit.

The Rotary Park ordinance will permit only “catch and release” fishing and prohibit recreational swimming, scuba diving and wading in the pond. It will also prohibit drinking from the pond and removing water for other use.

The income tax ordinance will change a one and one-half percent credit to one percent for city residents subject to a municipal tax on income in another municipality.

By David J. Coehrs

dcoehrs@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.