BATH TOWNSHIP — Bath Township residents filled the township meeting room Dec. 5 to voice their concerns about a change in annual fire and EMS coverage that will commence on Jan. 1.
During a special session held Dec. 3, township trustees voted to enter into contract agreements for annual fire and EMS coverage with Miami and Beavercreek Townships in Greene County, and Bethel Township in Clark County. The trustees citied fiscal responsibility for ending a longstanding fire and EMS contract agreement with the City of Fairborn.
Township Trustee Steve Ross told those who remained for the open-floor discussion, following the adjournment of the Dec. 5 regular session, that the trustees have been conveying an ongoing message to Fairborn city officials for several years.
“Our consistent message has been that we are paying too much for fire and EMS services. We came to that conclusion two years ago after we were able to get a handle on the number of fire and EMS runs to Wright State University student housing,” Ross said. “We established a contract agreement with AM Management, and those runs went from a high of 22 runs per month, down to three and four runs. We got control of those runs, but somehow, our run volume didn’t go down. In addition, Debbie McDonnell, who was city manager at the time, would never address the issue with us.”
Ross also pointed out that the City of Fairborn reimbursed the township $90,000 in fall 2016. According to Ross, the trustees brought this issue to the attention of city officials numerous times in the last year, but they would never acknowledge the fact.
Township resident Dave Anderson inquired about a tax millage the township would lose when the fire and EMS contract agreement with Fairborn expires. Ross explained that the township would lose $190,000 of inside millage, which is Fairborn residents’ contribution to the township. Ross noted that the majority of Fairborn residents are also residents of the township and pay 0.4 mills annually toward township expenses.
One resident asked township trustees about response times and the level of service from Miami Township Fire and EMS Department, which will be responding to 911 calls in the eastern section of the township. Ross said there was no imperial evidence that the trustees could wrapped their arms around in regards to response times. He pointed out that the resident’s house is located 3.4 miles from the nearest Fairborn fire station and 5.1 miles from the Miami Township fire station.
“That factor is in favor of Fairborn, but Fairborn’s fire and EMS department is perhaps the busiest fire department in the area. They had 7,327 runs last year,” said Ross. “The township has averaged 9.35 runs per month over a 46-month period in this section of the township, and Miami Township is very comfortable with adding 9.35 runs per month to their current volume. They have very dedicated personnel and are thrilled to take care of us.”
Township resident Robin Fischer told township trustees that she would be willing to approve an additional fire levy that would reflect an 83.2 percent increase in annual property taxes because she wanted the “latest and greatest” fire and EMS coverage.
However, resident Joe Batman said the $1,089,000 city officials proposed for township fire and EMS coverage in 2019 and $1.2 million for 2020 through 2023 is unrealistic.
“It is all about the money. If you sit down at a negotiations table and first ask for an annual increase of 83.2 percent, the other party is going to get upset. That is ridiculous,” Batman said. “People have come in here after the decision has been made. They should had been attending the township meetings when this issue was unfolding and had given their input then.”
Nate Fisher, who lives in the township and has served as a paramedic for 12 years, told trustees that Fairborn Fire and EMS would better serve the best interests of township residents, compared to the three townships, because the department is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All members of the department are trained to provide advanced life support (ALS) as well.
“If I was to call Bethel Township because I live in the western area of the township, I may get a paramedic from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. After that, you would get what you get. When you call Fairborn, you get four paramedics immediately. If you have a cardiac arrest, you get seven paramedics immediately,” Fisher said. “You can’t get any better than that.”
Kassie Lester, who resides in the eastern part of the township, expressed her support of the township trustees’ decision.
“I believe the township trustees have made the right choice for township residents. The City of Fairborn should not be charging township residences more than city residents for annual fire and EMS service,” Lester said.
Lester’s neighbor, Kathy Reeves, also expressed her support of the trustees’ decision.
“This is definitely the way to go. Fire and emergency response will actually be quicker for us because the Miami Township fire station is geographically closer,” said Reeves.
Township resident Zack Pitstick, who is a member of the Fairborn Fire and EMS Department, told trustees that Fairborn’s four fire stations are situated to provide the quickest possible response to both city and township residents. Fire fighters and EMS teams can be anywhere in the township in eight minutes or less with at least two paramedics. Whereas a township department responding from farther away means longer response times for sensitive ALS needs and massive fires.
Resident Michelle Pitstick, who has been a fighter and EMT for 15 years, noted that all township residents would be paying the same rate for three different levels of service from Miami, Beavercreek, and Bethel Townships. Beavercreek Fire and EMS has the same capabilities as Fairborn Fire and EMS, but Miami and Bethel Townships Fire and EMS do not. Some stations are staffed all the time and ready to respond, and others are not.
Ross readily agreed that the Fairborn Fire and EMS Department is well equipped and has served the township residents well. However, he pointed out that Fairborn city officials have taken the actual cost for annual fire protection and emergency medical services for township residents and have added two cost-estimating formulas, based on property values and population size, to increase the annual fee to $1,089,000 in 2019 and $1.2 million from 2020 through 2023.
“I believe I can speak for the other trustees as well. We are doing our best to make sure township residents will be taken well care of at a reasonable price. Those are the two duties we have as trustees,” Ross said. “It is a fine line we walk, but we are walking it, I promise you, the best way we can.”
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.