Archbold, OH
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Archbold Fire Department Facing Modern Needs With 39-Year-Old Property Tax Levy




Andy Brodbeck, Archbold Fire Department chief, and members of the Archbold Fire Department have a problem.

They’re trying to operate, maintain, repair, and replace fire equipment in the 21st century, with money from a property tax that hasn’t grown signifi- cantly since it was first passed in 1968.

That includes almost everything, from turnout gear to trucks.

That’s why the German Township Trustees, who provides the equipment for AFD, is asking German Township voters to approve a replacement of that original half-mill (.5) property tax levy this November.

Under Ohio law, revenue from a property tax is not allowed to grow with inflation. In other words, as the value of property appreciates, the county auditor must base the taxes on the value of the property as it was when the levy first passed.

Revenue generated by a levy can grow as new homes and buildings are built, but overall, the money generated by a property tax can’t rise as values go up.

If a levy is renewed before it expires, it continues to collect revenue off the old valuations.

But, a levy can be replaced, rather than renewed. Replacing a levy essentially resets property valuations to current, appreciated levels.

This year, Brodbeck said the current half-mill property tax, which is renewed every five years, brings the department $59,161. If voters approve a replacement levy, the amount of revenue generated for AFD’s equipment needs will just about double.

Then And Now

Over the years, the prices for fire fighting equipment have gone up. Part of the increase is due to inflation, but also, new requirements have been imposed.

In 1977, “turnout gear,” the protective clothing firefighters wear, consisting of a rubber coat, special insulated pants, hat, and rubber boots. The whole outfit could be purchased for about $200.

To equip a modern firefighter to today’s standards, including pants, coat, boots, helmet, plus other equipment runs about $2,000.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, commonly known as the “air mask,” could be bought in 1970 for about $400.

Today’s SCBAs, which are now required, cost $3,400 each.

At the high end of the spectrum is the department’s aerial ladder truck, Truck No. 101. It was ordered from the manufacturer in 1975, at a cost of $130,000.

A replacement cost anywhere from $800,000 to $850,000, Brodbeck said.

Repairs

AFD’s fleet of fire trucks is beginning to show its age.

Truck No. 101, the longest in service, dates back to the days when Gerald Ford was president of the U.S.

The department’s hose truck is a 1982 model. The heavy rescue was built in 1988- before this year’s graduating senior class was born.

Even with a rigorous inspection and maintenance program, these old fire trucks have problems, problems that go beyond just money it cost to repair them.

When a fire truck is out being repaired, it isn’t available to fight fires. If a truck isn’t repaired and maintained, it may break down at the wrong time; like when there’s a fire.

Here’s another problem. Truck No. 101’s emergency lights need repair. But the truck is so old, replacement parts are no longer available. That means the lights will have to be replaced with new ones, at a substantially higher cost.

Other Challenges

Archbold Fire Department faces other challenges besides just keeping its equipment maintained.

Department members train constantly. Brodbeck said within the next couple of years, fire fighters will be required to complete continuing education, just as emergency medical technicians do now.

To meet training requirements, the department offers training at their station almost every Monday night.

But training, and going on fire and rescue calls, means times away from families and jobs, making it difficult to keep volunteers.

AFD is consider a volunteer, part-paid department, meaning fire fighters earn $11.88 per hour for time on calls.

But no one does it for the money.

Brodbeck said some say the money is just enough, “to pay for your gas, and the clothes you ruin.

“We are fortunate to have a number of people, men and women, who are willing to sacrifice their time this way,” he said.


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