SIDNEY — Sidney City Council presented a second response Monday evening to Bon Air Circle resident John Adams’s second set of questions he posed to council about the upcoming income tax levy.
Adams first approached City Council on Feb. 25 with questions about the levy on the upcoming May ballot and for clarity about Fire Station No. 3. He brought forth several more questions about the levy at the April 8 meeting.
“I for one believe that with a 40 percent cut to road repair with this new permanent tax on income, it will not be sufficient to keep Sidney’s roads in good condition. Why a special election? It is well known that special elections have a low voter turn out because voters are conditioned to vote in primaries and general elections. The rub with voters that I have spoke with, is the fact that City Council is combining these two separate issues. A third fire house is not warranted at this time,” Adams said on April 8. He did not attend Monday’s meeting.
City Manager Mark Cundiff provided the following responses to Adams’s questions by letter via mail and during Monday’s City Council meeting:
• Why isn’t the word permanent in the ballot language?
— “The proposed ballot language the city sent to the Secretary of State’s Office reflects requirements as prescribed in the Ohio Ballot Questions and Issues Handbook and Ohio Revised Code …” Cundiff said, in part.
• Why is the city holding a special election rather than present the levy in November?
— The city is not holding a special election. The election on May 7, 2019, is a primary election which was being held regardless of the city’s ballot issue.
• Where does the standard (fire and EMS) response time come from? Is this a federal guideline?
— The response time standards utilized are from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1710 which is the standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments.
This standard contains minimum requirements relating to the organization and deployment of fire suppression operations, emergency medical operations, and special operations to the public by all career fire departments, Cundiff said.
• Do all cities (such as Piqua, Troy and Tipp City) use the same guidelines?
— Yes, the National Fire Protection Association standards are applicable to all fire/EMS depai1ments.
• How do percentages change to response times for fire/EMS calls when seconds are added to your response of say 7, 7.5, 8, etc.?
— Cundiff said to pleased to note that Sidney Fire Department’s (SFD) response time goals (which are based upon national standards) specific for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) incidents, are for 90 percent of all EMS incidents. The first-due fire department unit will arrive withing 6 minutes total response time. He responded, in part, to Adams’s specific question, by saying the 2018 EMS incident responses to the northern area were analyzed for compliancy against varying response times ranging 6 minutes to 8.5 minutes, using additional 30 second intervals. It is important to note that for this analysis every comparison beyond the 6 minute mark is beyond the national standard of a 6 minute EMS response.
• Why does west Sidney have an economical/small fire station to serve all of west Sidney compared to station proposed?
— Cundiff explained that Station No. 2, the west side station Adams referenced, was constructed in 1981 and has a remaining live expectancy of 3 to 5 years. It is admittedly outdated undersized and antiquated for modern fire department operations. He said the key word in Adams’s question is “small.” The third fire station model was based upon a master planning process with consideration of fire department needs citywide — including how all three stations could work together to better serve Sidney’s needs now and into the future. The master planning process also included a focus group of fire department needs, tours of existing stations, and from a building program that planned every square foot of space. The buildings look and floor plan was modeled from existing stations in Troy, Huber Heights, Brookville and Kettering.
Cundiff further said, “City Council and city administration are very conscientious about tax payer dollars that are proposed to be spent. That is why we conducted the master planning process. It was about looking into the future and understanding when we make this series of calculated moves, we are not going to redo something to achieve the next step. It is a process that you are building upon from one step to the next. So, it is the best use of dollars. Effective pla1ming is one of the foundations that good stewardship of tax dollar is based upon.”
• The fire department currently covers all of Sidney. Why would there need to be seven new hires? It this another formula?
— Yes, NFPA 1710 includes apparatus staffing and incident crew level assignments. SFD’s call volume is at a historic high with almost a 40 percent increase since 2010. SFD currently average more than 11 calls per day. Station No. 3, and the additional staff, will address the response time deficiencies and provide additional staff regarding the increase in call volume/work load.
• Were there any studies on a more more cost effective station similar Sidney’s west building and staff?
— Cundiff reiterated, that “as mentioned before, the third fire station model was based upon a master planning process with consideration of fire department needs citywide-including how all three stations could work together to better serve Sidney”s needs now and into the future.”
He continued, “The city has a 0.25 percent earned income tax that will expire at the end of 2019. This 0.3 percent will not go into effect until 2020 when the existing tax issue ends. The 0.3 percent is the fairest and most cost-effective way to address Sidney’s needs. because it will NOT tax Social Security, pension, disability, 401Ks, or investment income — and more than half (53 percent) will be paid by those who live outside Sidney, but work here and use city services.
He emphasized again when responding to this question that “City Council and city administration are very conscientious about tax payer dollars that are proposed to be spent. That is why we conducted the master planning process. It was about looking into the future and understanding when we make this series of calculated move you are not going to redo something to achieve the next step. It is a process that you are building upon from one step to the next. So, it is the best use of dollars. Effective planning is one of the foundation that being good steward of tax dollar is based upon.”
• The population of Piqua and Sidney are virtually identical; yet Piqua has one fire station while Sidney is proposing a third. Can this be explained?
— Cundiff said city council and staff can “only peak to the needs and plans presented in our community, however the NFPA 1710 standard are applicable to Piqua and Sidney (as well as many others), which includes station distribution and response times.”
He laid out the following comparative statistics for Sidney, Troy, Piqua and Vandalia:
Sidney — two fire stations, with a third station proposed; population, 21,300; 12.15-square-miles;
Troy — three fire stations ; population, 25,000; 11.94-square-miles;
Piqua — one fire station; population, 20,500; 11.89-square-miles;
Vandalia — three fire Stations, population, 15 300; 12.41-square-miles.
• With the current road levy, can road repair revenue be used for anything other than roads? Can the current levy dollars be used for wages?
— The current .25 percent levy can only be used for repair of roads, bridges curbs & gutters. It cannot be used for wages.
At the end of the presentation, Mayor Mike Barhorst said one of the things that stood out to him most was the increased number of calls SFD has received 899 percent in the last 50 years. He said Piqua’s population has not grown since 1970, whereas Sidney’s population has grown over 20 percent and the city has grown 40 percent in that same time period.
Council member Darryl Thurber said response times are designed to save lives and those on the other end of that call will be grateful for the city being there under 6 minutes. He noted that Station No. 2 is small and was initially intended to be a satellite station. Thurber also said Sidney has grown significantly over time and the city is preparing for future growth. He noted that growth is due, in part, to the city’s industry growth and emphasized that a third station would help with the safety of those businesses and workers. He thanked all who have been working to bring the levy forth.
The full response from the city of Sidney to Adams’s questions, which includes attached City Council minutes and charts is available to be viewed on the city’s website at https://sidneycityoh.documents-on-demand.com/?l=0af95919e2dc4ce38d55131ef45960e6&r=2019&d=8f698c191862e911a2cd000c29a59557
Reach the writer 937-538-4823.