BATH TOWNSHIP — The Bath Township Board of Trustees is finalizing contract agreements with three neighboring townships to provide annual fire protection and emergency medical services, effective Jan. 1.
During a special session held Dec. 3, township trustees voted unanimously to enter into fire and EMS contract agreements with Beavercreek and Miami Townships in Greene County and Bethel Township in Clark County, ending a longtime agreement with the City of Fairborn.
Before casting their votes, the trustees discussed the viability of transitioning to a new fire and EMS system by Dec. 31 with representatives from the three townships’ fire and EMS departments and Greene and Clark Counties’ dispatch centers.
“The reason we are headed in this direction is because of the position that the City of Fairborn has taken with us,” Bath Township Trustee Steve Ross said. “Fairborn has given us a Dec. 3 deadline to continue a contract with them for 2019. Therefore, we have to make a decision today to either move forward with Fairborn or move forward with the three townships that we have had conversations with.”
Ross said Bath Township currently has a 7-mill fire levy in place that generates $655,000 in tax dollars per year, and that levy will appear on the ballot for renewal in November 2019.
“If in fact the township was to sign this contract with Fairborn for $1,089,000 for 2019, that would be an increase of $434,000 or 66.3 percent. The intent for 2020 through 2023 is to increase the annual fee to $1.2 million. That is an 83.2 percent increase over what we currently collect from our residents,” said Ross. “In our opinion as trustees, signing the contract with Fairborn would put Bath Township in a financially unstable position.”
Mindy Lane, communications director of the Xenia-Greene County Central Communications Center, said 90 percent of 911 calls in Bath Township are currently dispatched through the county’s central communications center. According to Lane, the center could adjust the GIS mapping, place it in the CAD system and adjust emergency response plans in about two weeks.
Michael Combs, 911 coordinator for Clark County, told trustees that call process times in both Greene and Clark Counties would not increase with the switch in coverage. However, response times would increase in some areas of the township.
“From a technology and operating standpoint, we would be doing the same thing we have been doing but for a slightly different area of the map,” Combs said.
“It is the travel-time component that will change significantly in some areas of the township because we are farther away,” Beavercreek Township Fire Chief David VandenBos added.
Ross asked Bethel Township Fire Chief Jacob King to explain mutual aid. King said approximately 157 fire and EMS departments in multiple counties participate in the Greater Dayton Area Fire Departments Mutual Aid Agreement. Under this agreement, emergency responders lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries, at no cost, when an emergency response exceeds local resources.
“I also want to stress what Chief VandenBos clearly stated — our processing times will not change, but our response times and level of service for some township residents will change,” said King. “We are unique with part-time and paid-on-call members at night. We do not have staff at the station 24/7. It is a huge difference from what township residents currently have.”
Ross referred to a map of the township that trustees had divided into four zones to determine specific domains of coverage. Zones 1 and 2, which represent the western and northern areas of the township, would fall under Bethel Township’s coverage. Based on a 46-month history, Zone 1 averages 8.72 calls per month, and Zone 2 averages 3.73 calls a month. King noted that Bethel Township currently averages six calls per day, which are dispatched out of two stations.
The eastern section of the township has been designated Zone 3. This zone averages 9.35 calls per month, based on a 46-month history as well. Miami Township Fire and EMS Department would respond to the 911 calls in this area. According to Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman, the department answers approximately three calls each day. The department has transitioned from a volunteer department to a combination model with six full-time and eight part-time employees and 20 volunteer members.
“We have a paramedic on duty 24/7, and we have scheduled staff all of the time. We are quite confident that we can handle calls from Bath Township and our township at the same time.” Altman said. “However, there will be an increase in response times because we are coming from Yellow Springs.”
Zone 4, which Beavercreek Township will service, represents the southern section of the township, including Country Acres, Terry Acres, and the Wright State University area. Although it covers the smallest geographical area, Ross noted that this zone averages 21.46 calls per month, based on a 46-month history. .
“We average 20-to-30 calls per day, so adding Bath Township would represent about a 4 percent increase over what we are currently doing. We have four fully staffed fire stations that provide emergency medical services and fire protection 24 hours a day. Our ability to absorb the increase in runs is not a problem for us at all,” said VandenBos.
James Hill, who is currently serving as the township’s attorney during the negotiation process, also pointed out that the township’s fire fund is rapidly dwindling because the township has paid out more for annual fire and EMS coverage than what it has collected in levied taxes each year.
Although the contract agreements are not fully in place, Ross said the annual cost of fire and EMS coverage from the three townships would be significantly less than $1,089,000, which Fairborn proposed. Ross noted that the annual fees would be less than what the township is currently collecting in fire levy taxes from township residents.
“Bath Township Trustees are obliged to do two things. We have to make sure that our residents receive adequate care regarding fire and emergency medical services. Secondly, we have to protect the taxpayers’ dollars and make sure that we are paying the right price for these services,” said Ross.
“It’s a no brainer. Having adequate fire protection and emergency medical services is the goal. We have contended with the changing pattern of expense that has been put before us, and I see no end to it,” Township Trustee John Martin said. “This annual fee is not based on the budget of the Fairborn Fire Department but on how much money can be generated for the city.”
“I think it’s all been said. We tried to negotiate with Fairborn. They have taken the attitude that they are not going to negotiate. It leaves us with no choice,” Township Trustee Tom Pitstick said. “Quite honestly, I think these services will not suffer. We will be well covered moving forward and working with these three departments.”
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.