GAMBIER — College Township trustees agreed Monday to accept part of a 2019 Fire Contract counter-offer from Monroe Township trustees.
The trustees signed an offer to Monroe Township trustees to set the contract at $198,000 for fire and emergency medical services from the College Township Fire Department, after having asked Monroe Township for $215,000.
The fire contract to provide service to Monroe Township has been set at $193,000 each of the past two years.
However, during Monday’s special meeting held at the fire department, College Township trustees also rejected — with trustee Barry Bowden calling them “non-starters” — several Monroe Township proposals in a counter-offer received from College Township Oct. 11.
Among them, Monroe Township trustees asked that they be allowed to sign off on fire department expenses above $1,000; and that they “have a say on employees’ hires, fires, salary, benefits, and promotions.” Monroe Township trustees also asked that the human resources person in the fire department be a certified fire/EMS person, and if they are not, they be paid through funds other than fire/EMS funds.
In addition, Monroe Township trustees stated in their counter-proposal that they “expect the College Township trustees to have the Village of Gambier move toward implementing an income tax of no less than .75 percent for fire/EMS (services). The College Township will still use mills to cover their portion of the fire/EMS protection.”
College Township trustees Bowden, Doug McLarnan and Charles Woolison said those terms are simply unacceptable. Bowden said asking College Township to agree to Monroe Township trustees’ oversight over personnel decisions and purchases over $1,000 would be akin to telling a plumber who provides a service what tools he must use in his trade.
College Township trustees are requesting that Monroe Township trustees approve, at its regular meeting Monday, what Bowden calls a “clean contract” for fire and EMS services set at $198,000. Though Bowden said the deadline is not set in stone, it is important that the fire agreement be approved because of how late it is in the year and budgeting for 2019 needs to be finalized. He added that Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville has approved the language of College Township’s contract — the same language that has been used between the two townships for years.
Village of Gambier Mayor Kachen Kimmell, who attended Monday’s special meeting, criticized Monroe Township trustees, offering that with regard to the tone of the Monroe Township counter-proposal, “They (Monroe trustees) don’t treat these relationships with the respect that you (College Township trustees) do.”
Later, Kimmell said Monroe Township trustees pressuring College Township trustees to ask the village to implement 0.75 percent income tax amounted to double taxation. There are only about 360 property-tax paying homeowners in Gambier, she said, a population of about 800 residents that does not include Kenyon College students, since its 1,700 students are predominantly tax-exempt. Gambier taxpayers already pay into the 5.25 millage for fire and EMS protection from the College Township Fire Department that is set to increase another 1 mill if it passes on the Nov. 6 ballot, she said.
Kimmell also said Gambier officials and residents do not believe Monroe Township pays what it should toward fire and EMS protection. The amount that the fire department has spent on personnel to man the Monroe Township fire station has averaged between $10,000 and $11,000 per month since the start of the year. Until recently, that amount covered two firefighters at the station working 24-hour shifts on weekends, and two of them working 12-hour shifts on weekdays. Currently, the station is not staffed due to the state of the stalemated fire contract.
“The village’s position has constantly been that it makes more sense to have a solid staff out of this (College Township Fire Department) building, and that the money that was spent and is continuing to be spent on that overnight building up there should have gone to salaries for (fire department) staff,” she said. “My constituents and my property owners subsidize those (Monroe fire building) decisions every day.”
McLarnan said much of what Monroe Township is proposing appears to support the idea of creating a fire district — an agreement among several government entities including the two townships and the village — to share the costs and control of fire and EMS services. Bowden, however, said no documents provided by Monroe Township specifically mention wanting to create a fire district.
Kimmell said she is in favor of a fire district because of the advantage of streamlined efficiency of fire department governance and shared resources, but emphasized that all entities who pay into the fire department’s budget — set at up to $625,000 per year — should be included in the district. That includes Kenyon College, which is contributing $100,000 for fire and EMS services this year, an amount set to increase to $120,000 next year, although it is not required to make any payment.
Bowden noted that if a fire district were to proceed, that would require an entirely new dialogue and new agreement. At this point, it is imperative that Monroe Township do its part, by communicating and acting on the $198,000 contract that College Township trustees have accepted, he said, which needs to happen Monday.
There were no members of Monroe Township trustees at College Township’s special meeting Monday.