By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
If either the police or fire levy on today’s ballot doesn’t pass, trustees will be facing some hard choices, particularly when it comes to providing an ambulance service, according to Trustee Chairman Ron Haun.
Much of Monday’s meeting centered around Haun’s plan to provide a more transparent view of the accounting done between the township’s fire department and the emergency medical services department. Haun hopes residents will gain a “truer picture” of what it costs to operate the ambulance service and how, if something isn’t done to garner more revenue, residents may soon be facing high out-of-pocket expenses if they must call a private ambulance service instead.
The fire department is asking for a 1.6-mill levy to raise about $150,000 a year to offset increasing costs in providing services.
Haun estimates the ambulance service probably lost about $200,000 in the last year. Wages for the township’s EMS services cost $221,546 a year and wages for the fire department cost about $161,958, he said. He suggested to the board that they move some money out of the wages for the fire department and place it in the EMS account.
“It’s all one big pot of money, true, but I would like the residents to see what we see in terms of what we have to spend,” he added. “This way, if they see that 85 percent of a full-time firefighter’s time is on EMS calls, they will understand the value of what they are getting.”
Trustee Gary Lees, who is on the ballot for re-election today, said if he gets back in office, his first priority will be sitting down with the union firefighters and EMS personnel to “find other avenues” to bring in business.
“It’s an important need for all of us in the township, but it’s something we can’t continue to put on the backs of the taxpayers. I want to see the union and management work together on this,” he added.
And along those same safety issues, trustees listened to complaints from a resident who remains concerned about pedestrians walking along Old Route 82. Haun explained that a sidewalk along that stretch of road is simply too costly for the township to consider. Lees pointed out that it is a county road and that he would like to see the advice of the Trumbull County engineer.
Trustee Phil Schmidt, who volunteers as a driver for the township’s senior citizen van, said most of the people they are complaining about are from the Brookfield Care Center who walk to businesses along Route 82. “But they don’t need to walk. I was in there four times just today alone. A ride is available,” he said.
“But I will say some of those who are walking are just walking because they like to walk. And they are with it. They might have some problems, but they know what they’re doing and they know to watch for traffic,” he added.
Lees said long before he was a trustee, about 16 years ago, there was federal money to widen that stretch of old Route 82 and put sidewalks in. The money was returned to the state, he said, because homeowners along that portion of the road didn’t want to give up any frontage on their property.
“They were against it. The money went up to Chagrin Falls instead. It could’ve happened, but it didn’t,” Lees said.
Haun said he would call the county’s engineer and inquire about the possibility of a bike trail along that route, just to give people a place to walk.