Monday, July 7, 2003

Size of fire levy weighed

Lebanon to hold public forum

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - City leaders here want to extinguish any public confusion before they put a new fire levy on the fall ballot.

Lebanon residents are being invited to hear a short pro-levy presentation and then ask questions at Tuesday's City Council meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at city hall.

Since 1999 there has been a 32 percent increase in emergency runs for the city's more than 17,000 residents, Mayor Amy Brewersaid.

"It's time to act on this," said Brewer.

There remains only one fire station for the Warren County seat, and council members are proposing a 5.5-mill property tax increase on the fall ballot to build another fire station near the city's southern neighborhoods off Ohio 48.

City officials will hold a public hearing to ask voters whether they favor renewal of the current 4.5-mill levy, or increasing it to 5.5 mills.

"This is not a frivolous tax issue. The City Council is trying to be proactive in meeting the safety needs of our community," said Brewer, who favors the 5.5-mill tax issue.

"We could go with the status quo," she said of the option of asking for renewal of the 4.5-mill levy, or "look at the future safety of the community" in offering the larger fire tax levy.

In 1999 the department responded to 607 fire calls; the number grew to 804 calls in 2002. Emergency medical calls increased during the same period from 1,562 in 1999 to 1,814.

If voters approve a 5.5-mill tax, the annual fire tax for the owner of a $100,000 home would grow from $157 to $192, or an increase of $35 per year.

A 5.5-mill levy also would allow the fire department to double its full-time firefighters from two to four. It would pay for a new fire truck and for a new station near the Ohio State Highway Patrol post off Ohio 48. Council will vote on the levy at a later meeting.

The Lebanon Fire Department now uses 48 part-time firefighters.

City Manager Pat Clements said if Lebanon plans to continue to expand, it needs to add to its firefighting resources.

"This additional station will significantly reduce fire and ambulance response times to the southern and eastern sectors of Lebanon which have grown significantly over the past several years," Clements said.



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