Safety questions raised about new Caesar Creek marina

Fire chief calls on state to help pay for additional staff.

In April, the $8.8 million marina is expected to open at the state park on the lake, the result of a federal flood control project, outside Waynesville. The marina will include a fire suppression system, along with 120 slips, fuel facilities and a concessions stand.

But the state has declined to provide any funding to the fire department in Massie Twp., responsible for handling fire and ambulance runs on the lake.

On Friday, Fire Chief Scott Hines appealed for state assistance.

“I don’t want to tarnish a silver nickel,” Hines said. “They basically said, ‘It’s your problem. You are going to have to handle it.’ ”

Last year, Darryl McKinney, a trustee in Massie Twp., said township officials were appealing for support from the state. Otherwise, he said the marina would be a financial liability, rather than an asset for the township government responsible for funding and operating the fire department.

The marina is expected to draw boaters, businesses and new residents to the area.

“It was agreed local communities generally welcome new economic development and community rejuvenation, and oftentimes there is a cost to the local government to expand public resources which include fire and EMS,” Phil Miller, capital improvements administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resource said in a January 2015 email.

Earlier this month, Miller told the Warren County commissioners the facility was expected to open in April.

On Friday, Matt Eiselstein, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said the opening date was undetermined.

“We will be open for boating season early this year,” he said in an email.

Regarding the fire and rescue funding issue, Eiselstein said “discussions have taken place previously, but at this time no fees were agreed upon for emergency responses to the new marina.”

Discussions are ongoing, but the state anticipates the marina development bringing more visitors to the area, boosting government revenues and spending at local businesses

“The new marina at Caesar Creek is expected to draw more visitors the area which would lead to additional revenues for area businesses and the community. Ideally this would more than offset any additional costs incurred through emergency responses to the marina,” Eiselstein said Monday via email.

None of this will help fund the fire department, Hines said.

Trustees had discussed but rejected the possibility of seeking an additional levy on residents of Massie Twp. and the Village of Harveysburg to better fund staffing during the week, when volunteers otherwise staff the station.

“Why should we overtax 1,500 people to pay for something the state is throwing on top of them,” Hines said.

The township also considered levying a luxury tax on the marina, but found state marinas were exempt, Hines said.

He estimates the department would need another $30,000 a year — about a third of its current annual budget — to provide firefighter-emergency medical technicians during weekday hours when the department is otherwise staffed by volunteers.

Otherwise, Hines said he would rely more on neighboring departments.

“My hands are tied. I’ll go do the best job I can do,” he said.