Residents will be voting on the district’s budget, one Board of Fire Commissioner seat and a special question authorizing a new truck
On Saturday, Feb. 17, Washington Township residents will vote on the fire district budget. For the third consecutive year, the Washington Township Fire District has proposed a budget with a decrease in taxes.
If approved, the budget would decrease the district’s tax rate by .001 cent, from the 2017 rate of 13.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 13.7 cents per $100 assessed valuation, a savings of approximately $30,000 in the total budget, according to Fire Chief Pat Dolgos. The budget would raise a total of $5.86 million by taxation to support the full budget expenses of $6.6 million.
The average homeowner in Washington Township with a home valued at $210,403 would pay approximately $288 in fire taxes, a decrease of about $4 from 2017.
According to Dolgos, equipment replacements and upgrades are a priority in this year’s proposed budget, specifically in regard to firefighting equipment and firefighter gear. Also, internal upgrades to facilities will be considered as 2017 saw an increase in staff firefighters who are scheduled to work overnight coverage, a responsibility that used to be manned primarily by volunteers.
Additionally, the district plans to begin consulting with professional services pertaining to facility upgrades, such as future improvements to the stations’ HVAC systems and the resurfacing of parking lots. While this year’s budget would cover the planning stage of the infrastructure enhancements on the existing buildings, most of which are more than 20 years old, Dolgos said there are some significant costs that come with engineering fees.
As for new facilities, Dolgos said, the district will be looking to do research and planning on replacing a station with the property recently purchased on Johnson Road by the Whitman Square Fire Company Board of Fire Commissioners.
“Fire protection is critical, and one thing we don’t want to do is hide our elections; we’re very transparent and we want people to know what we’re doing,” Dolgos said. “For us to continue doing what we need to do we want people to support us and we want them to know we are part of the community. Most importantly, we want to ensure our firefighters have the best protective equipment and state-of-the-art equipment to do our job safely.”
Additional items on the ballot include a request for voter approval to purchase a new fire truck, not to exceed $700,000, to replace a fire engine that is outdated and having some maintenance issues, according to Dolgos.
“We plan it out as to where it does not have a significant impact on this budget as well as future budgets,” Dolgos said on the request. “If we do wait, and we put it out two years, that year may cause a significant increase in the budget rather than now, since we have some leases and bonds that have been paid off.”
Edwin Etschman will also be running unopposed for the one open seat on the Board of Fire Commissioners.
According to Dolgos, a few main goals of 2018 involve the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters, having gained 18 volunteers in 2017 with about six still in process, as well as increased education initiatives to the residents, businesses and schools of Washington Township.
In 2017, Dolgos said, the district pushed its smoke alarm campaign hard, partnering with the American Red Cross, the 6ABC Operation Save a Life and The Home Depot to obtain additional donated smoke alarms.
“We’ll be continuing a very aggressive approach on that, going into neighborhoods, knocking on doors,” Dolgos said. “Rather than sending messages out on social media, we’ll be out there ground-pounding.”
Furthermore, the district will be expanding its school programs as fire prevention officers are in the process of developing a middle school-level program on fire safety. As well, open enrollment education programs will be made available to the public for residents to sign up and learn basic fire safety and fire extinguisher training, such as how to fight kitchen fires safely.
For more information about the Washington Township Fire District, visit www.wtfd10.com, or follow its page on Facebook. The fire election will be held at the Fire District Headquarters, 213 E. Holly Ave, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.