Newport Township Fire to lay off employees if voters reject $3.5 million bond measure

If voters reject Newport Township Fire Protection District's request for a $3.5 million bond issue in Tuesday's election, the cash-strapped department will have to lay off three firefighters, effectively turning fire station 2 into a garage, officials said.

The district is set to run a deficit of more than $100,000 in the fiscal year beginning May 1, according to a news release.

Fire Chief Mark Kirschhoffer said if the April 2 ballot question does not pass the board would lay off three firefighters and reduce part-time coverage. That plan would go into effect on May 1. At that point, the district wouldn't have enough people to staff fire station 2, which is at 43320 N. Highway 41.

Kirschhoffer said the district currently has two firefighters at station 2 day and night, which allows them to provide better service to residents in the north and west portions of the district.

According to the district, if the $3.5 million bond issue is approved, the owner of a home with a fair market value of $200,000 would pay an additional $74 per year in property taxes over the 20-year life of the bond.

Kirschhoffer said fire officials don't have enough room to house all of their trucks at station 1 so they would continue to lease an unoccupied station 2, essentially turning it into a garage.

Newport Township Fire Protection District President Joe Stanonik said the district is operating on a bare bones budget of less than $1.7 million and has no cash reserves.

"We've cut the budget in nearly every place possible to still be able to keep up with our emergency response obligations," Stanonik said. "No one wants to pay more taxes, me included. The fire district board of trustees are very sensitive to this but does not see any other way to maintain the minimum staffing levels necessary to provide effective service to the residents and visitors."

In addition to preventing layoffs, approval of the bond question would allow the district to pay off the remaining $700,000 mortgage on station 1 and replace aging equipment and vehicles.

"Newport has had an apparatus replacement plan for years, there just hasn't been money to fund it," Kirschhoffer said.

Kirschhoffer said district officials have received a positive reaction from the community regarding the referendum.

"The majority of people we've been able to reach out to seem very concerned and very interested," Kirschhoffer said. "People hadn't realized where we're at and what needs work."

Newport Township Fire Protection District provides fire and ambulance service to the majority of Newport Township including the villages of Old Mill Creek, Wadsworth and the western portion of Beach Park.

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