MONROE TOWNSHIP — The Monroe Township trustees will not sign a new contract with College Township for fire and EMS service at this time. They want to first “aggressively pursue” alternatives, especially joining the Eastern Knox Joint Fire District.
To that end, Trustee Kevin Henthorn will attend the Eastern Knox District Fire Board meeting Thursday. Fellow Trustee Bill Pursel will also try to attend.
Monroe’s actions came following College Township’s refusal to add a number of conditions to the contract. Although they accepted Monroe’s offer of paying $198,000 instead of the $215,000 they had asked for. College did not agree to any other conditions Monroe put forth.
Trustee Neil Bower said his biggest objection was the use of fire funds to pay for a human resources officer. He said few other departments have such an official who is not part of the department.
Kevin Henthorn cited not a specific issue, but “a lack of openness and basic business courtesy.”
In the ensuing discussion they cited not knowing who was manning the Monroe station, citing the presence of medicines and tools as reasons for concern; not knowing how Monroe’s money is being spent, and who is being hired.
They also claimed Kenyon is paying less than its fair share and Gambier should enact an income tax increase to compensate.
Kenyon, which is exempt from local property taxes under state law, voluntarily pays $100,000 for the fire and EMS service and will pay $120,000 in 2019 and $140,000 in 2020, said College Township Trustee Doug McLarnan.
The Monroe trustees have argued that Kenyon’s contribution being voluntary means the system is on “shaky financial ground.”
They noted that Monroe paid $125,000 in 2015. It went up to $180,000 in 2016, and $193,000 in 2017 and 2018.
With their current 5 mills of levy support, they said the maximum they could give in $198,000 until 2027.
Four mills, which generate a total of $219,900, are on the ballot today for renewal.
Pursel, who said he had outlined his concerns at an earlier meeting and did not repeat them, said it was clear the trustees were not ready to sign a new contract with College at this time, but he assured residents of the township that come Jan. 1, there will be fire and EMS service in the township, whether it comes from a contract with College, an agreement with Eastern Knox or someone else, or establishing their own department.
McLarnan was at the meeting, but was not asked for comment and did not address the trustees. He said afterward that whatever decision Monroe makes will not affect their service in College Township.
“We can’t tell them what to do,” he said.
He did point out that the department’s financial and personnel records are all available as public records, which anyone can see.
He also explained that the HR person in College Township is a part-time employee who divides her time with issues affecting other township personnel, not just the fire department.
In a final bit of business before the trustees, Henthorn said that if Pursel is elected county commissioner, they will begin accepting applications from people interested in filling the office for 2019. Applications must be submitted by the time of the first meeting in December.
Whoever is selected will have to run for the final two years of the term at the 2019 election.