GALENA — Harlem Township residents will be voting on a property tax replacement issue in the November election. It is a replacement levy for an expiring fire levy.
The ballot language reads, “3.5 mills, 4 years, commencing 2020, first due 2021: providing and maintaining fire apparatus, appliances, buildings or sites therefor, or sources of water supply and materials therefor, or the establishment and maintenance of lines of fire alarm telegraph, or the payment of permanent, part-time, or volunteer firefighters or firefighting companies to operate the same, including the payment of the firefighter employers’ contribution required under section 742.34 of the Revised Code, or the purchase of ambulance equipment, or the provision of ambulance, paramedic, or other emergency medical services operated by a fire department or firefighting company.”
Harlem Township Trustee Bob Singer translated the wording in an email to The Gazette.
“The purpose of the levy is to provide funds for purchase and maintenance of buildings, apparatus and equipment, and for compensation of our firefighters and emergency medical personnel,” Singer wrote. “The owner of a $100,000 home should expect to pay $122.50 per year in property taxes.”
Singer said the average age of Harlem Township’s fleet of vehicles is more than 20 years old. That includes a 20-year-old medic vehicle that should be replaced, and “a 1979 tanker truck that is out of service due to major mechanical issues, and needs to be replaced.”
The Harlem Township Division of Fire employs seven full-time and 22 part-time employees, Singer said. “As the township continues to grow, our goal is to add additional full-time personnel to better serve our residents.”
Harlem Township, in the southeast corner of Delaware County, is 26.47 square miles, and it had a 2010 population of 3,953 people. The township website states that in 2009, there were 73 farms and 59% of the land was agricultural, while 26% was residential.
“The township board of trustees is proud of the performance and dedication of our entire firefighter/emergency medical personnel team,” Singer said. “We also greatly appreciate the support the residents of the township continue to provide the department.”
Fire Chief Christopher J. Caito compiled a history of the fire department for the Harlem Township Civic Association this summer. Residents and trustees formed a Harlem Township Fireman’s Association in 1973 to launch a new fire department. Through fund raising, donations (including two trucks from BST&G), volunteer efforts, and the passage of a levy, the original fire station was constructed.
The division has provided emergency medical services since 1979. The passage of a bond issue in 1990 led to the expansion of the station to its current configuration, which also houses the trustees and zoning board.
The passage of another levy led to the hiring of the division’s first three full-time firefighters/EMTs. The first fire chief was Bill Fling (1973-84), followed by Dean Hoppe (1984-85) and Dale R. Fling (1986). Fling retired on April 30 of this year.
In 2015, Fling said in a letter to property owners that Harlem’s Public Protection Classification had improved from 6/9 to 4/4 (the scale is 1-10, with 1 being best). The Insurance Services Offices’ rating system is used by insurers, and a lower rating for fire departments can mean lower premiums for property owners.
Caito, a 40-year fire service veteran who has been with Harlem Township since 2004, was promoted to chief in May. According to fire division data, the department responded to 527 calls for service in Harlem Township last year.
“Today, the Harlem Township Division of Fire is a full-service public safety organization, using cross-trained dual-role personnel, that provide advanced life support transport service, in addition to rescue, hazmat, fire suppression and fire prevention/education,” Caito said.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.