CIRCLEVILLE – Last night during Circleville City Council a room full of Circleville’s Fire and Safety forces discussed the need for a safety levy to get both fire and police back to recommended levels. During that discussion, a section of the fire/police suggested amendment was removed by the council that made the entire room of Firefighters and police officers stand up and leave council chambers.
Discussions before the abrupt departure were emotional. One firefighter who lives in town says he’s working long hours and unsafe hours to provide for the city, but they can’t do this forever. He said he was concerned for his wife’s safety when she goes for runs in the park. Because Circleville Police Chief Shawn Baer had told council in a earlier meeting that they have had some sexual harassment in local parks, and because of the shortfall in funds they can’t investigate. He said he moved his family to Circleville because he thought it was safe.
Attorney for Safety forces Joe Hegedus spoke and said that “I want to remind council that none of the levy monies asked for is an expansion of services or raises. Council passed ordinances in the past that stated what the appropriate levels of staffing and services were for the City of Circleville. Neither the Fire or Police are up to those staffing levels that the City deemed was an appropriate level of staffing to serve the people of the City. Why is there a hesitation to pass an ordinance that would go before the people who pay for the service and reserve the right to make the decisions to pay for the services that the city and safety forces deems safe.”
City Council did not decide to move forward with the ordinance immediately. Instead, they discussed making amendments to the ordinance. One of those amendments suggested by Councilman Tom Spring was to remove an entire line of the ordinance that earmarked the funds for Safety forces. This would allow for future adjustments to the levy monies to be used for other city items. This suggestion went under heavy fire with arguments that safety forces put that particular line in there to protect those monies from being cut out of police and fire in the future. Councils argument for the removal of the line was because the levy is forever and eventually when the levy is fully funded their may be extra monies left in that fund that the City could use elsewhere. The cities human resource employee said that simply fire/police departments do not trust the auditor to sufficiently fund the safety forces without eventually cutting out funds. When Council moved to approve the removal of that line, and it was voted on by council 4 to 2 to amend the ordinance, the entire room of safety forces minus the Chief of Police Shawn Baer stood up and left Council Chambers visibility upset.
Another amendment was discussed after the room cleared of a sunset rule also suggested by Councilman Tom Spring that would keep this tax increase ordinance in affect for only the period of several years, returning the the taxes back to today’s level eventually.
This would possibly lessen the burden on City taxpayers in the future once the City pays of some larger items on the books like the Fire Station Spring Suggested. It would also make the levy more palatable to voters knowing that we are planning for an end to the higher increase when things smooth out for the city council suggested.
More talks on the possible safety levy to adequately fund both police and fire are scheduled for the beginning of next month, but Council must pass the levy ordinance during next council meeting in order to meet the timeline to place it on the ballot for the November election.
<script async src=”https://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js“></script>