WEST ALEXANDRIA — During a meeting on Monday, Nov. 16, West Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Shafer approached the West Alexandria Village Council about the possibility of adding a tax levy for a new fire and EMS station located within the village limits.
Shafer, along with Christopher Widener from WDC Group — who designed the proposed plans presented to council — and Molly Gwin, an attorney hired by the West Alexandria Firemen’s Association presented possible plans to council during the meeting.
The new building according to Shafer, will house both the fire department and emergency squad department as the two entities continue to merge into a single department.
The current budget for the project according to Shafer is set at $1.2 million for a 9,000 square foot station that will feature four bays, a kitchen and an event room which will be able to host 40 to 50 people for community events.
Shafer said building a new station as always been a dream of the department in his 34 years as a fireman and according to him the current fire department is one of the older buildings in the town.
Shafer said he hopes to raise about $500,000 through donations and fundraisers to help keep the cost of the structure to taxpayers down, and said his department will help with finishing touches on the building in an attempt to further lower costs.
According to Shafer, as the two departments continue to merge into the one, communication and maintenance of equipment within the department will become much more efficient if they are located in a single station.
The proposed building would be located at 67 East Dayton Street and feature a parking lot in the rear.
During the meeting, a debate between Shafer, Widener, Gwin and village solicitor Rick Faber ensued about when a potential levy could go to ballot.
According to Gwin, the village currently has taxation for buildings within the village to which a new levy for the fire department and EMS can be added.
“It is our legal opinion this is an added project, “Gwin stated. “It is an addition to an existing contribution to the general fund to millage you are already getting, and accordingly you don’t have to do this via the general election.”
Faber claimed the levy for the building should be considered a new levy and believed the general election was the appropriate time. “The November election is the appropriate time,” Faber said. “It’s a worthy project so let’s do it and do it right.”
Widener agreed with Faber, a new levy should go on the ballot in November; he argued however, the department is not seeking a levy but an additional levy to current levies within the village because current resources do not provide enough funds for the construction of a fire and EMS building.
The two parties also debated the Preble County Board of Elections’ position; Faber claimed assistant prosecuting attorney Eric Marit said his opinion was the project was a new levy and needed to wait until November.
Widener and Gwin stated Marit told them no decision had been made and would not be made until official language was drawn up.
After the meeting, Marit explained, “Currently the prosecutor’s office and board of elections have no position on the matter and will not declare an official position until official ballot language is drawn up and presented to the Preble County Board of Elections.”
There was also debate when the two parties first contacted each other. During the meeting Faber claimed he had not been aware of the project until a week before the meeting.
Widener however stated he began contacting Faber on Sept. 20 and stated phone records show two “short” conversations between the two. Gwin and Shafer both supported Widener’s claim of contacting Faber in late September.
Widener said the project would be delayed and not be completed until January of 2018 if the new taxation did not go to voters until November of 2016.
“If we pass the resolution and go with the thoughts of March and it goes to Eric (Marit,) he can kick it out,” council member Deb Smith stated during the meeting, telling Faber, “Then you would be off the hook from everyone being mad at you.”
The Ohio Revised Code being called into question were section 57-.05-25 and section 57.05-191.
Council approved a resolution requesting official millage from the Preble County Prosecutor’s office and will hold a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 30 to discuss the matter further.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.