Submitted by John Starcher, President Pro Tem, Marblehead Council
Last year at this time, in this column, I asked for your support for the Village of Marblehead's 2-mil levy renewal. You obliged, and the Village appreciated it very much! This year I'd like to ask your support of a different issue,
As most of you know, 2013 was a landmark year for our local volunteer fire departments. In case anyone reading this is new to the area, a bit of local history: Danbury Township (which includes the Village of Marblehead) has had the very good fortune to receive outstanding fire and EMS service from two local Departments. The Marblehead Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1895, four years after the Village was incorporated. It was a municipal department, owned and operated by the Village. The Lakeside Volunteer Fire Protective Association was formed as a private Department in 1905, in response to the need for fire services on the private grounds of Lakeside, particularly the "massive" (and now historic) Hotel Lakeside, after a large fire caused major damage to many cottages on the grounds.
For years, the Danbury Township Trustees provided fire and rescue coverage for the Township residents by contracting with both the Lakeside and Marblehead Departments. This arrangement worked well for many, many years, and it was a fairly simple and efficient process for the Trustees - simply write a check and get the coverage you need! The contract was financed by several property tax levies - some earmarked for fire and some for ems. The levies changed a bit over the years, but the basic format remained in place and the system worked very well.
As the years passed, however, it became increasingly clear that a change was going to be needed. Economic and social changes that had been developing over time were creating an environment wherein volunteerism was on the decline. Both Departments were feeling the effects of this change, and both realized they needed to look to the future with solutions in mind if they wanted to continue serving our residents with the excellent level of service we all had become accustomed to. A committee was formed, and they spent hundreds of hours working to find solutions.
Many different options were considered, but in the end it was decided that both Departments should merge into a new public Department, under the control of Danbury Township. The Danbury Township Volunteer Fire Department was officially placed into service in July 2013. Existing levy proceeds already collected have been used to fund the Department's operation so far, but at some point soon new monies will be needed.
The November ballot contains a new 1.5-mil levy to fund the new Department. The intent is for this levy to replace all but one of the several existing levies currently in place (an individual levy for hydrant maintenance will remain in effect, as it was part of the regional water system implementation and must remain in place until all bond issue obligations are met). It basically replaces a mixed bag of individual levies, some of which are designated specifically for either fire or EMS, with one levy to fund the new Department, with no restrictions (fire vs EMS) on how the dollars can be spent.
This "new" levy is a good thing, and it's on the ballot for good reason. It's a new levy, but it's really just a restructuring of existing tax monies that we all already pay, and it will assure that we all continue to receive the excellent service to which we all have become accustomed. I personally will be casting my "for the levy" vote on November 5th, and I sincerely hope that you will do the same.
In other news, the Marblehead Village Council will be welcoming a new member in January. Dave Redett is running for office unopposed, and will be joining us as Vickie Kozak's replacement. Vickie has decided to hang up one of the many hats she wears, and I'd like to personally thank her for her service to our Village. Dave joins me and Dean Dorko on the ballot as unopposed candidates for election. John McDonald wasn't able to get his petition turned in on time due to a medical issue, but he has rejoined us at the council table and we are thrilled to have him back.
On behalf of the entire Village Council, I thank you all for your ongoing support, and I hope you all will plan on voting on November 5th.