norton: City Council members voted 6-1 Thursday evening to place a 4.6-mill, four-year levy for fire and emergency medical services on the ballot this fall.
Fire Chief Mike Schultz said the levy would help pay for the daily operation of the station, including salaries and utility expenses.
This is the third attempt by Norton officials to get a fire/EMS levy passed. Voters turned down similar requests in November 2011 and this March.
Officials said they wanted to ask voters one more time, because the margin of defeat in March was only 112 votes.
“Three months ago, I wouldn’t have ever dreamed I would have had a need for EMS services,” Councilman-at-large Scott Pelot, who had to call recently after surgery for lung cancer, said Thursday in supporting the levy request. “When you feel your life threatened ... and the thought goes through your head — ‘Are they staffed?’ or ‘Are they even open?’ — you don’t ever want to be there. I hope people pass it.”
The levy would generate about $1.13 million annually for the fire department. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $140.88 a year.
If passed, it would replace four levies already on the books, two for fire and two for EMS.
Significant cuts have followed each of the previous levy defeats.
After the levy failed in March, the fire department’s EMS calls were turned over to a private ambulance after 10 p.m. The fire station is no longer staffed after 10. If neighboring communities are available, they answer the call.
When the levy failed in November, nine firefighters were laid off and the staffing level was reduced from five or six per shift to three.
Mayor Mike Zita said it is gut-wrenching to listen to dispatch calls and hear an ambulance company say on numerous occasions it did not have a unit available and the city would have to rely on its neighbors.
“It’s only going to be a matter of time before we’re going to need some help and it’s not going to be available,” Zita said.
Charlotte Whipkey, at-large, was the lone no vote. She said her constituents have told her they voted it down twice already and don’t want to see it on the ballot again.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.