ST. CLAIRSVILLE - This November, District Four of the Cumberland Trail Fire Department will be asking residents to replace its two continuous levies with a five-mill replacement levy. The department currently operates on a three-mill levy approved by voters in 1989 and a two-mill levy approved in 1998. If approved, the five-mill replacement would be based on current property valuation.
"This is not an additional millage but a replacement of the current levies," said Fire Chief Ken Saffell. "The additional funds that would be generated will ensure the district can continue to provide quality service to its residents."
If the levy is passed, a fire district resident residing in a home with a market value of $100,000 will see an annual increase of $84.70. This is an individual that receives the standard 12.5 percent reduction and not on homestead reduction.
T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK
Matt Hamsher and Mike Lollini, firefighters and paramedics at Cumberland Trail Fire Department, Fourth District. The district will place a five-mill replacement levy on the coming ballot.
An individual who is 65 years old or who will be turning 65 will see an increase of $70.28 annually on a home with a market value of $100,000.
Saffell added that the department is cognizant of the difficult economic times that everyone faces on a daily basis. He added that the fire department would not make the request unless absolutely necessary. The district has sustained major revenue losses exceeding $180,000 annually due to the loss of personal property tax, deregulation and the recent state budget cut that resulted in the loss of a prison service contract. The district must now pay for radio equipment supplies.
He noted that the department recently had to replace the aerial apparatus. In 1987, the first new ladder was purchased for $241,000. In 2009 it was replaced for $660,000, an increase of more than $400,000.
Saffell noted that since taking over as chief Jan. 2, one of his top priorities has been working with the Fire Board toward the development of a five-year strategic plan.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a high level of quality service when our funding is based on 1989 and 1998 property valuations," he said.
If approved, the replacement levy would allow the district to hire three full time personnel. The fire district operates with nine people on day turn, eight on afternoon, and six on midnight year round.
One full time firefighter will be added to each platoon that works 24 hours on rotation and 48 hours off.
"This is necessary due to the fact that it is getting more and more difficult to fill the required part time shifts," Saffell said, pointing out the lack of volunteers, which made the district necessary.
"The district's staffing levels are low compared to the national standard of 14," he said, adding that the district will be graded on staffing levels and their grade will affect the Insurance Service Organization's Public Protection Classification Rating of Class 5 and Class 5/9. This establishes home owner insurance rates.
They have also submitted an application for a Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grant for the three positions. The grant would provide two years' funding.
Another vital area is equipment. Saffell said they have planned for almost $1.6 million in equipment spending in the next five years.
These plans include re-chassis of two ambulances, which would take place in 2013 and 2014.
Saffell said the process saves the taxpayers money, since the process can double the seven to nine year life cycle of an existing unit rather than calling for the purchase of a new one.
He added that at least one fire engine is 27 years old and will need replaced within the next five years. Cost to complete the engine replacement will be in the $450,000-$500,000 range.
The third squad replacement will be a complete new unit since it has already been re-chassis. The second replacement will be a rescue engine with a replacement near $600,000 due to specialty requirements. It would be replaced in 2015.
Funds will also be used for physical facilities, maintenance and repairs to the fire stations and mobile training unit. Also, since January 2010 the state requires 54 hours continuing education every three years in conjunction with 48 hours of emergency medical training.
"I really appreciate the support and feedback we receive from our district residents," Saffell said. "We just hope we can count on their continued support so we can be there in their time of need."