Sandy Creek hopes to add fuel to firefighting efforts
MINERVA — Voters in the Sandy Creek Fire District are being asked to pass a 3-mill levy in the May 7 primary election six months after they turned down a new 2-mill levy.
The 3 mills is expected to generate $638,000 a year compared to $401,000 with the 2-mill levy defeated by voters in the November general election. Fire Chief Aaron Stoller said they decided to go with the higher amount this time after determining this would give them the additional cushion needed to put off asking voters for more money by at least a decade or more.
“When I sat down and ran the numbers based on what we needed to replace or repair (equipment, vehicles and the 20-year-old fire house) I felt we would be back again in a short time seeking an increase” with the 2-mill levy, he said.
Another major change with this levy is it will be subject to renewal every five years. The 2-mill levy was for a continuing period and never expired.
Besides Minerva, the fire district serves Paris Township in Stark County and West Township in Columbiana County. Formed in 2012, it is funded with a 4-mill levy that generates $736,000 per year, with the other source of funding coming from some of the ambulance transports. The levy runs for five years and was last renewed by voters in 2017.
Stoller said the fire district was formed in part to provide citizens with more reliable ambulance service at a reasonable price. Sandy Creek now has four EMTs at the fire station around the clock to respond to ambulance calls. The department has total of 30 paid/volunteer firefighters, 12 of whom are also EMTs. Another dozen are trained as paramedics.
The additional money generated by the 3-mill levy will be used to:
— Start an ambulance replacement program. Equipped ambulances can cost more than $250,000.
— Keep four EMTs on staff at all times.
— Set aside money to replace equipment and make repairs to the fire station in Minerva.
Stoller said residents in the service area have benefited from the practice of “soft billing,” which means the fire district accepts whatever their insurance coverage pays for ambulance runs. He estimates this has saved users $350,000 since 2012. Non-residents using the ambulance service are billed for the portion of the bill not covered by insurance.
The 3-mill levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 an extra $105 a year in property taxes.