Washington Township Trustees discuss fire services rate increase


By Matt Clevenger

[email protected]

PIQUA — A crowd of approximately 20 to 30 residents gathered at the Washington Township Building on South College Street in Piqua on Thursday, Jan. 11, attending an open meeting held to discuss a proposed 115% increase to the township’s costs for fire services provided by the city of Piqua.

“Currently, we receive fire protection from the city of Piqua Fire Department, Covington Fire Department and EMS, and also the Lockington Fire Department,” Washington Township Trustee Jeff Lang said. “It’s been that way for many, many years.”

“We are discussing with both Covington and Lockington if they can possibly extend their reach to cover more of our township, because one of our providers has asked for an astronomically large amount of money from what we paid them in 2023.”

The township paid the city of Piqua approximately $109,000 for fire services in 2023, Lang said. The city is now seeking $241,000 for those services in 2024, he said.

“The increase is right at 115%,” Lang said. “We don’t feel that that is justified.”

“We’re willing to pay an increase,” township resident Chuck Starrett said during the meeting. “We understand that, but I think it’s ridiculous its 115%.”

Rates for the township’s fire and EMS contracts typically increase 2 to 5% annually, Lang said.

Washington Township currently includes approximately 1600 residents, Lang said, and had 319 Fire/EMS runs in 2021, 2022 and 2023 combined.

“That’s about 107 runs per year,” he said. “The majority of those were squad runs.”

“We’re talking about fire tonight; we’ll address emergency responses at another date,” Lang said. “We are pursuing other opportunities for EMS coverage.”

According to trustees, Washington Township has had only a verbal agreement for fire services from Piqua since 2022.

“We were not given a contract in late 2022 to sign for 2023, and we were told with a handshake that we are covered as a township,” Lang said.

Trustees were first notified about the proposed increase in August of 2023, Lang said, but the township has not been in communication with the city since then.

“We didn’t see justification for it, and we had a breakdown in communication,” he said. “Is it a lack of communication on the part of our trustees? Maybe, but we’ve had a lot of different situations with the city of Piqua where the communication is very, very poor.”

Options discussed at the meeting include dropping the city of Piqua’s coverage, or the township could also attempt to pass a levy in November to cover the cost increase.

“We’ve provided excellent service to the community for the last 50 years or more, along with Piqua,” Lockington Fire Chief Jon Adams said during the meeting. “I don’t want to see the community lose the services they’re getting with Piqua Fire.”

“I think the people in this room need to vote on a levy to support that continues Piqua Fire,” Adams said. “If we vote that down, then we have to know that we’re willing to take less services. If we want to keep the services we all have and enjoy, then we need to support that levy.”

“I do feel that the citizens of Washington Township have a say in this and what kind of service they want, whether they want to rely on volunteers,” Covington Fire Chief Bart Weer said. “That is going to be up to the taxpayers.”

Adams said it is his understanding that the city of Piqua calculated the increased rates by dividing their operating costs among the citizens being served.

“Actually, what they’re charging people in the township is a little less than what they’re charging people in town,” Adams said.

“What we save in not having Piqua Fire, we could lose in our insurance rates,” he said. “Insurance rates will go up, so we might be better off to pay the taxes, have a paid fire department on staff as well, and save money in the long-run.”

The cost of a levy to support the increases would be range between approximately $160 to $300 per household annually, Adams said.

“It’s about 4.5-mil,” he said. “It might be about $300 per household, on average.”

Several residents spoke in favor of keeping the township’s contract with Piqua, despite the fee increase.

“There’s quick service, and there’s delayed service,” resident Kathy Mayes said. “I’m willing to pay more to keep those services.”

Several residents also voiced concerns that not enough notice was given prior to Thursday night’s meeting, which was announced through a posting on the Township Building door.

“We did everything legally,” Lang said. “The first and third Tuesdays of the month at 7:30 p.m., we meet down here on those nights. It’s posted; it’s been posted for years.”

“All of our numbers are also on the door,” he said. “We don’t have a website. I’m sorry if you think it was late notice; I’m sorry if you think we were pulling the wool over your eyes, because we are not.”

Miami County Prosecutor Tony Kendell and Assistant Prosecutor Chris Englert also attended the meeting, serving as legal council for the township.

“They are here because our township, and all the townships in the county, rely on the county prosecutor for legal advice,” Lang said.

No action was taken during the meeting. Township officials have until March 31 to accept the proposed contract with the city of Piqua, Lang said.

“There will be no decision made tonight, or probably at the next meeting either,” he said. “We’ll talk about it again, but we won’t make any decision until we have input from the citizens of our township.”

“We’ve got to decide something by March 31,” he said. “We will make the best decision possible for all the citizens of the township, to make sure they have fire and EMS coverage.”

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