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The Suburbanite
  • Canton Township seeks fire levy

  • Canton Township Fire Chief Scott McKibben said if voters approve the proposed Canton Township fire levy on May 7 lives would be saved.

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  •   Response times by township firefighters to fires and medical emergencies would, in many situations, speed up by at least few minutes if voters approve a proposed 5-year, 4-mill fire levy, Township Fire Chief Scott McKibben says.
    “If public safety is a concern of yours then you need to vote for the levy,” he said.
    McKibben said if the levy passes on May 7, it would provide $955,000 a year, of which he would spend about $200,000 the first year to replace two 12-year-old ambulances and an aging engine truck. McKibben also said he would spend $100,000 on station upgrades and about $666,000 to hire the equivalent of eight full-time firefighters to staff the Meyers Lake Station 24 hours a day. He said this would free up other township firefighters to more fully serve the rest of the township, reducing overall response times.
    If the levy fails, he said, he would have to consider closing the township’s Sherman Church station and laying off firefighters to free up money to replace those vehicles, which will soon be too old to use. He said response times would worsen.
    In March 2012, nearly 61 percent of township voters rejected a proposed permanent 4.9-mill fire levy, which would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $150 a year. In November, the trustees came 29 votes short of passing a permanent 3.5-mill fire levy that would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $107.19 a year.
    The request on the May ballot would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $122.50 a year because collection of the tax would start a year later than if the levy had passed in November.
    McKibben said the fire department’s budget is just under $2 million. It’s funded by roughly $1.2 million from a permanent 4-mill levy and 1-mill levy expiring next year, which the trustees said they will not seek to renew if the new levy passes. The rest of the money comes from $500,000 a year in ambulance fees charged to non-residents plus donations and grants. The department this year started charging residents the fees, which are expected to raise about $100,000 a year.
    The chief said the number of people willing to serve as volunteer firefighters has dwindled from about 90 in 2002 to about 20 today. The department has had to hire more part-time and full-time firefighters. In addition, lower property values and the state’s repeal of the tax on business inventory, equipment and furnishings resulted in an estimated loss of $300,000 a year in revenue, Trustee Christopher Nichols has said. And the cost of new fire vehicles and equipment, utilities and fuel have risen.
    Reach Robert at 330-580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @rwangREP