Area township has to decide whether to pay more for fire, emergency services

WASHINGTON TWP., Miami County — Residents of small, rural Washington Twp. in Miami County packed a meeting space Thursday night as they listened to their township trustees calculate the math that will determine whether the community can afford to keep its current level of fire and emergency medical services.

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Township trustees told News Center 7′s Brandon Lewis the city of Piqua and the villages of Covington and Lockington provide fire and EMS coverage for the community of fewer than 2,000.

Thursday night, township leaders said Piqua has asked to increase its fire and EMS contract by 115 percent this year.

The township in 2023 paid Piqua $109,000.

The proposed increase would raise that amount to an estimated $241,000.

Piqua City Manager Paul Oberdorfer, in response to a question from News Center 7, said The contract has not been negotiated for 15 years, with an automatic 2 percent yearly increase.

“We have honored the 2020 contract value in 2021, 2022, and 2023 attempting to get the townships back to the table. We held a meeting with the townships on Aug. 22, 2023, and they did not contact us to negotiate after the meeting.

“A letter was sent to both townships putting them on notice we will provide service after Jan. 1, 2024, at the new rate.”

Oberdorfer said the collective bargaining agreements over that period ranged from 2 percent to now 4 percent in increases. Labor is 86 percent of the fire department budget and the old contract required Piqua residents to heavily subsidize the townships.

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“I pulled two property cards as an example and the increase resulted in $86 and $120 annually at 110 percent,” the city manager said.

Township resident Kathy Mayse said she wanted to know how much of the increase would hit taxpayers.

“One-hundred and fifteen percent of one thousand isn’t as much as one-hundred and fifteen percent of a million dollars, so tell us what that amount is,” she said.

Mayse is willing to pay more for the services, if it means keeping Piqua.

“But you know what, gas is four dollars a gallon but that don’t mean we quit buying gas. We just have to pay it,” she said.

Trustee board Chairman Jeff Lange said Piqua has given the township until the end of March to make a decision to pay up or lose its current level of service.

Township trustees have said there is enough money in the coffers to afford the increase for one year, but the board is considering trying to get the issue placed on the November ballot to see if taxpayers would foot the bill for a second year.

“There will not be any diminished service,” Lange said. “It will be the same if not better, and we will not let anybody fall off. Everybody is going to be covered.”

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