The Hebron fire dept has been serving Hebron/Union township since 1926. Over the last 40 years a number of discussions have been held by the elected officials of Hebron and Union Township about forming a fire district. Three professional consultations were conducted to determine if the formation of a fire district was the mot appropriate course of action to serve Union Township and Hebron.
All 3 consultants suggested that a fire district be formed so that all the revenue generated in the township can go toward a single district instead of our two communities conducting separate levies. They also recommended there should be a fire station located in the northwestern part of the township given that the Hebron fire station is located to the southeast.
Back in July 2018, I was approached by the mayor to serve as the Chief of the Hebron fire department to provide fire and EMS services to Hebron and Union township. It was part of the understanding that I would work toward the formation of a fire district. I was part of community sessions and township meetings to inform the community about what a fire district is, the benefits and drawbacks, and we made sure to address those drawbacks.
15 months after I was hired the village of Hebron elected officials and the officials from Union Township signed a resolution forming the Refugee Canyon Joint Fire District. This is a multiple page document that spells everything out and effectively makes the fire district its own governing agency. Union Township and Hebron each have their own elected and appointed officials on its board and collectively they make decisions for Hebron and Union Township fire/EMS.
While the formal filings were taking place for the Refugee Canyon Fire District, Union Township trustees purchased a home in the northwestern portion of the township. It was purchased with tax dollars with the ultimate goal of turning it into a fire station, once all necessary modifications had been made. We also hired additional staff to help provide fire/EMS throughout all of Union Township from that fire station.
We recognized soon after the formation of the district, that as a separate government entity, we could no longer always depend on revenue from the village and the township. The folks in the unincorporated area pay 4.8mills/$100,000 valuation while the folks in the village pay 10.8 mills/$100,000 of valuation. A considerable difference. The law in Ohio permits fire districts to operate forever under current rates that have been set, but we believe the pertinent thing to do would be to say to all residents that we would like to assess everybody the same millage for fire/ems protection since it is more evenly spread out than it was years ago, which led to us placing the measure on the ballot this fall.
Chief Mason went on to speak about his experience working with Firefighters and EMS Fund:
I am a member of several professional organizations, one of which is the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association where I served as president from 2009-2010. I am forever grateful for my relationship with the Ohio Fire Chiefs and the literally hundreds of thousands of members of the fire industry I have had the pleasure of meeting. I was reading their semi-frequent publication where two chiefs commented to whomever was having levies- that there was a group who was willing to help local communities get the word out to their voters about reasons why they should support fire and EMS this election.
I reached out to one the authors of this comment, and he shared with me the name of another fire executive; both gave me their history or experience working with the Firefighters and EMS Fund. I reached out to Nile at that point and since then we have developed a working relationship. I believe we have been well received, and have had the opportunity to share ideas about things we never could have or would have thought about on our own. We received financial assistance that will enable us to get the word out, to create a positive image about this levy. Quite frankly what we have received from Firefighters and EMS Fund is not something we could have done on our own.
The idea that a group of folks, particularly folks with an interest in a community that they have no real relationship with- the idea that they are willing to step up and provide direction and support to serve that community is great. It’s easy for me, I have lived in this community my entire life and have served this community in many ways over the past 41 years, so I have a vested interest in the community. To find someone like you who will say- tell us about your operation, tell us about what you’re trying to do, so we can help. You don’t owe us anything, never have or never will, and you have never asked us for anything. You didn’t say you ought to give us money for helping you out, so to have an organization that is willing to help a community provide an essential service is absolutely commendable. Whether in my fire chief hat, resident hat, or having served this community as an elected official, nowhere in my experience have I ever seen anything like this before. You all are to be commended for wanting to be involved in supporting local communities.