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Miamisburg, Miami Twp. permanently merge fire services

Miamisburg and Miami Twp. will keep sharing fire and emergency medical services, a move officials say has saved millions of dollars and has public support.

The five-year deal that started the Miami Valley Fire District in 2012 was made permanent Wednesday night as city council members and trustees nearly unanimously approved measures in a joint meeting.

RELATED: Study finds fire district should become permanent

The partnership has received high marks from officials, residents and firefighters, and a study completed this year calls it a “model” for other public entities.

“I think both sides are extremely happy,” said township Board of Trustees President Andrew Papanek. “We’re happy with the way the program has rolled out. They have stayed on budget with the budget projections. It’s just worked very well.”

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RELATED: Fire district entering last year of deal

A joint resolution approved Wednesday night indicates the long-term plan is for the district to be funded by a single levy, which its board of trustees will decide “at the appropriate time.”

The thought of taking direct authority of the fire district’s budget away from the city — coupled with limited discussion on the issue — made Councilwoman Sarah Clark uneasy enough to cast the lone vote against the permanent merger.

While praising the work of the fire district, Clark said, “We’re essentially removing oversight from elected officials.”

The amount and length of that levy may not be determined for several months, said Councilman John Stalder, president of the fire district’s board of trustees.

“That will probably be our next item – as to how we do it or when we do it,” he said.

Township voters last year approved a five-year tax issue, one of two levies that community uses to fund its portion of the district’s nearly $9 million annual budget. The city funds it through a levy and money from the general fund, officials have said.

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The fire district includes five stations, five medic units, four engine companies and one ladder company, with combined staffing of about 65 full- and part-time firefighters, according to Fire Chief Matthew Queen.

The joint resolution approved Wednesday night also states any political subdivisions may join the district. New members, it states, “will have taxes levied at the same rate as is effective in the district.”

Any member may withdraw from the district by providing a 90-day written notice of its intent to adopt a resolution to withdraw, the document states.

The move to make the fire district permanent has community support, according to the study completed by Aimpoint Research of Columbus.

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Sixty-seven percent of residents and 82 percent of firefighters surveyed said the district should continue, the study found. Both employees and citizens “believe that a fire district is the best approach to providing service and should be permanent.”

Sixty-one percent of surveyed residents indicated approval of how tax dollars are being used for the fire district.

Nearly half of the study’s key findings revealed operational shortcomings. The district’s leadership structure is “a work in progress,” staffing levels need reviewed while training programs “need expanded and enhanced” and regional dispatch “integration still needs improvement,” according to the findings.

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