Newbury Trustees, Fire Officials Thrash Out Funding of New Station
January 13, 2022 by Ann Wishart

Newbury Township Fire Chief Ken Fagan, township Fiscal Officer Beverly Sustar and trustees discussed Jan. 5 how the yield of more than $1 million a year from the 5.5-mill fire levy passed in November will be spent to build and staff a new fire station.

Newbury Township Fire Chief Ken Fagan, township Fiscal Officer Beverly Sustar and trustees discussed Jan. 5 how the yield of more than $1 million a year from the 5.5-mill fire levy passed in November will be spent to build and staff a new fire station.

On Dec. 9, Newbury Township Trustees agreed to contract with DS Architecture of Kent to develop preliminary plans for the 12,100-square-foot fire station.

With preliminary plans in hand, DS Architecture will advertise for request for qualifications for a construction manager to work with the township and fire department on the project.

The construction manager will put together a detailed cost analysis that will create the budget for the project, Fagan said.

The RFQ needs to be ready for trustees to approve by the meeting on Jan. 19, he said.

Preliminary estimate for construction is $4 million to renovate the station on Kinsman Road and add 5,350 square feet on to the existing station to accommodate equipment and housing for full-time and part-time firemen/paramedics.

Construction is expected to use up about 1 mill of the 5.5 mills with the rest to be used to staff the station 24/7 once it is operational.

Sustar said the levy will yield about $250,000 per quarter.

On Dec. 1, trustees voted to obtain tax anticipation notes for the project. Tax anticipation notes are issued prior to the collection of proceeds of an approved property tax levy, according to the Ohio Revised Code.

Sustar said debt service on the notes will come from the continuing 5.5-mill levy and the renewing 1.6-mill levy.

The township trustees will no longer be supporting the fire department with $70,000 per year from the general fund once the levy monies start arriving in February, said Trustee Bill Skomrock.

The township fiscal officer will be handling the debt repayment and supplying the fire department with necessary funds, Sustar said.

“You tell us what you need,” she told Fagan. “When you start staffing, we will have to amend the contract (between the trustees and the independent fire department) for more money.”

“We’re flexible enough to bend for whatever you need,” Trustee Glen Quigley said.

Sustar said the department has operated on $325,000 per year and the township will be receiving four payments of about $320,000 every quarter.

“We should have a monthly discussion about the bills,” said Trustee Greg Tropf.

Skomrock said the department remains a private fire company contracted for fire protection to the township. All the taxpayer money will go toward the department.

“I think the (Geauga County Budget Commission) is going to be all over us. We need quarterly reports,” he said. “I know they are going to say, ‘You have all this money, what are you doing with it?’ We need to put it in the contract.”

Former Fire Chief Doug Zimperman asked if other contractors have to provide that information.

“As a township trustee, I want a report. I’m contracting with you,” Skomrock said, pressing for transparency. “I want a report and I’m sure everybody else does, too.”

Tropf said the trustees have an annual hearing with the budget commission and may be asked to justify the need for the levy, so trustees need to have those reports.

Fagan said he and the fire company would like to see how the township is spending the money that comes in from the levies.

“We’ll keep a running total for you,” Quigley said.

The 5.5-mill continuing levy passed 774 to 661, according to the Geauga County Board of Elections.

The department gave two presentations for residents in 2021 explaining what the levy goals were — which included building the fire station and staffing it full time — and answering questions.