Now that Middletown city council unanimously voted to place a 1-mill property tax on the ballot next spring, city and fire officials and a campaign committee will try to convince residents the tax is needed.
Middletown fire officials and firefighters attended last week’s meeting, and after council voted 5-0 on the levy that would fund the building of four fire stations, Chief Paul Lolli said he was “thrilled.”
He knows convincing council was only the first step. Now it’s up to the citizens.
“We need these fire stations and it will be a good thing for the firefighters and a great thing for the citizens of Middletown,” Lolli said after the meeting. “We want them to know it’s important that we need new stations for the health and safety of our firefighters and it will put us in a better position to serve the community of Middletown.”
Even though the resolution passed unanimously, Mayor Nicole Condrey, as she did at the previous council meeting, questioned the timing of the levy. She wanted it on the November ballot.
City Manager Jim Palenick responded by saying, after the city performed its “due diligence” by confirming the fire station locations and design considerations and financing, the city missed the deadline to place the issue on the November ballot.
“I don’t like the fact we missed the deadline,” Condrey said.
Council member Tal Moon said Middletown voters just passed a road levy and putting the fire station levy on next spring gives time to educate voters.
“It makes sense to wait,” he said.
Later Condrey said she was “frustrated” that the city needed to ask voters for additional property taxes to fund a “basic service” like public safety.
“A lot of bad decisions have been made in the past,” she said, adding the city could have spent money “in a better way.”
“I hope we make good decisions moving forward,” she said.
The 25-year levy would replace the previously-enacted 1-mill levy established to fund debt service for the Central Connections Senior Center that is expiring this year. Moon said the senior levy was always a spring ballot issue, and since the fire station levy will be its replacement, it should be in the spring.
The cost of designing, furnishing, and constructing the four facilities that would replace the “inadequate and obsolete” existing stations is estimated at $16.6 million, Palenick said.
If Middletown residents reject the levy, Palenick said, the city could place an income tax increase that would require a 1/8th of 1% increase for at least 15 years; cut the general fund budget by more than $800,000 a year by reducing the number of public safety employees; build one fire station every five or six years that would about double the final cumulative tally of costs; or don’t replace the fire stations.
PROPOSED FOUR FIRE STATIONS
- New fire headquarters location replacing the 1.38-acre site on Roosevelt Boulevard: A 3.6-acre site at Yankee Road and Cherry Street owned by the city as acquired from the Middletown City Schools and former site of Garfield school. Size: 24,300 square feet. Cost: $7,168,500.
- Station No. 81 location replacing 0.28-acre site on Clinton Street: A 2.85-acre site at Henry Avenue and Charles Street owned by the city as acquired from the Middletown City Schools and former site of the Jefferson school. Size: 10,200 square feet. Cost: $3,009,000
- Station No. 85 location replacing 0.86-acre site at Central Avenue and Breiel Boulevard: A 2-acre parcel at Sophie Avenue and Stolz Drive encompassing the undeveloped, southern portion of Dowling Park owned by the city. Size: 10,200 square feet. Cost: $3,009,000.
- No. 82 location replacing 0.88-acre site on Dixie Highway: A 2.7-acre site at Ohio 122 and Atrium Boulevard acquired from Premier Health/Atrium Medical Center. Size: 11,800 square feet. Cost: $3,481,000.
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