January 22, 2014
TOWNSHIPS STILL EYE TAX FUNDS
Several township officials are still working behind the scenes to gain a larger share of Delaware County’s sales tax revenue to pay for fire department-based emergency medical services.
Officials with Liberty, Orange, Genoa and Harlem townships have been meeting with fire chiefs and county officials to try and come to an agreement on an alternative EMS funding model, according to Orange Township Rob Quigley.
City of Delaware officials are also involved in the discussions.
They have asked the county to re-examine the way it uses a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund EMS. Originally, the political subdivisions were asking the county to contract with each of them by paying $600,000 for each ambulance they operate.
“We’ve tried hard to find ways to work closer together to save money,” he said. “I believe we can come to a solution that will be beneficial to all.”
But Delaware County EMS Chief Mike Schuiling is not so sure. He believes the county’s “third service” model focused entirely on emergency medical services serves the county well.
“EMS is all we do,” Schuiling said in the past. “There’s no other distractions that pull us away from doing just that.”
According to Quigley, the push to change the funding model was precipitated by 2012 levy failures in Orange and Liberty townships. The fire departments in each township were in danger of closing if emergency levies were not passed in 2013.
“It was a wake up call to get more people engaged,” he said.
Quigley hopes to reach an agreement on funding by the end of the year.
“I don’t think it should take longer than another year,” he said. “If everyone is willing o come to the table, it could be done this year.”
The Delaware County commissioners would need to approve any changes to the funding model.
STATE OF THE COUNTY CALLED GOOD
The state of Delaware County is very good, Commissioner Ken O’Brien said in the 6th annual State of the County presentation hosted by the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce last week.
Economic indicators point to a market that has fully recovered from the recession, he said, with both conveyance fees and building permits rising to pre-recession levels. The county’s unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, one of the lowest in the state.
“It is a sign things are good,” O’Brien said.
Sales tax continues to be Delaware County’s main source of revenue, at just over $47 million in 2013. Those figures are likely to increase with the addition of an outlet mall just off the Interstate 71-U.S. 36-Ohio 37 interchange.
But growth and development in the county also pose challenges, O’Brien said. In the case of the outlet mall, it could put a severe strain on an already congested interchange. The state has said it does not have the funds to build a second interchange in the area, and the project is likely to be developer-driven.
“If it’s in the county’s benefit, we need to move forward and help this happen,” he said.
The county’s growing population – which O’Brien estimates has ballooned to about 184,000 – also puts a burden on other county agencies and offices, including the court system. The commissioners last year commissioned a facilities study that is likely to spell out the need for additional court space.
“There’s a good understanding that we need to do something,” O’Brien said.
COUNTY SETTLES IN LAND PURCHASE
Delaware County will avoid what could be a costly eminent domain jury trial in its efforts to acquire the land necessary to complete the extension of Sawmill Parkway.
The Delaware County commissioners last week agreed to settle out of court with Lawrence and Christine Hunt for the acquisition of 0.207 acre on 1800 Ford Road.
The resolution was approved in a 2-0 vote. Commissioner Gary Merrell was absent.
“I think it’s generally good to avoid trial and save the money of those expenses,” Delaware County Commissioner Ken O’Brien said.
The case was set to go to trial Tuesday.
The county had offered to pay $8,465 for the land, which the Hunts said did not represent a fair market value, according to court documents.
The terms of the settlement have yet to be negotiated.
The county in 2012 approved eminent domain action against 21 property owners to acquire the land needed for the road project.
Twelve of the cases have been closed. The county has paid out $3.2 million in those cases.
Five cases remain open. The status of the remaining four cases could not be immediately determined.
APIARIST HAD BUSY YEAR
Delaware County Apiarist Dan Curtis kept busy in 2013.
As apiarist, Curtis is the county’s official bee inspector. Last year, he inspected 848 honeybee colonies and drove more than 3,600 miles in doing so, he reported to the Delaware County commissioners last week.
“We do probably more beehives in this county than they do anywhere in the state,” he said.
Curtis did in fact inspect more beehive colonies than any other county apiarist in the state.
“I’ve always been impressed how we compare to the other counties,” Delaware County Commissioner Ken O’Brien said.
Curtis said most of the requests he receives are about swarms of bees and infestations in homes. In the case of swarms, he will round the bees up and give them to a beekeeper. When it comes to infestations, though, Curtis can only offer advice.
“I’m not an exterminator,” he said. “I’m strictly an inspector under the Department of Agriculture.”
According to Curtis, the county’s bee population remains relatively healthy. However, an infestation of small hive beetles affected about 160 hives across the county last year.
“It’ll spread big time this year,” he said.
Curtis said he will work to educate beekeepers this year on how to prevent infestations.
BERKSHIRE TRUSTEE CARPENTER DIES
Berkshire Township has a large void to fill with the passing of its longest-serving trustee.
Trsutee Bob Carpenter passed away Jan. 10, taking with him a wealth of institutional knowledge about the township he gained in his over two decades involved in Berkshire Township government.
“I don’t know anything that he didn’t touch,” Trustee Bill Holtry said. “Fortunately, I was here to see him accomplish a lot of things that he did.”
Carpenter helped secure the land where the township’s new hall was recently built. He was also instrumental in securing additional land for the township’s cemetery.
“We’d been running out of cemetery space if it wasn’t for Bob,” he said.
To honor Carpenter, Holtry said he would like to make the drive leading into the new township hall parking lot after Carpenter.
Carpenter, a 45-year township resident who was recently elected to his fifth term of the board of trustees, prided himself on the fact that the township remained debt-free during his tenure and on the role he played in bringing a full-time chief to the BST&G Fire District.
“The knowledge that he takes with him is irreplaceable,” said Berkshire Township Administrator Jeff George.
Trustee Rod Myers said is was a pleasure serving with Carpenter over the past several years.
“Bob and I had differences of opinion, but when it was all said and done, we were still friends,” he said. “He will be greatly missed. He was a good trustee.”