Belpre discussion on fire, emergency medical levy

BELPRE — A group of Belpre residents, officials and businesspeople are looking at ways to raise awareness and support for an additional tax levy that has been placed on the November ballot for Belpre voters for fire and emergency medical services in the city of Belpre.

The five-year levy would be for a rate not to exceed 1.75 mills for each dollar of valuation. If approved by voters, the levy will generate about $213,000 annually for the city of Belpre to be used for fire and emergency medical services.

For a homeowner with a $100,000 home, the property tax will increase by $61 a year, according to the Washington County Auditor’s office..

About 50 people met Tuesday at the Belpre Bingo Hall to discuss the needs of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department, how the levy would help with those and what can be done to generate support for the levy’s approval on Nov. 7.

The meeting was moderated by Belpre businessman Dave Posey and Mayor Mike Lorentz.

Posey said bingo fundraising through the Belpre Firefighters Association Inc. provided a strong revenue stream for the department for many years, but issues including changes in community interest and involvement have caused a decline in that revenue source, despite ongoing efforts to maintain and restore it.

Lorentz said the city of Belpre and the association have worked for years to help the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department in various ways, primarily assisting with equipment and similar purchases but those sources have reached their limit.

The city of Belpre budgeted $135,000 for the current fiscal year for the fire department before adding another $65,000 for the daytime ambulance service this year, said Council member Susan Abdella, finance chairman for Belpre City Council.

However, projections for future budget years show increasing difficulty in providing funds for the fire department in addition to the city’s other required services. That is one reason the levy has been proposed and is being placed before voters, Abdella said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, those attending discussed ways to raise awareness and provide accurate information regarding the levy and how funds will be used if it passes. Abdella said providing that information is important because one rumor she has already heard is that the city of Belpre would eliminate city funds for the department if the levy passes.

“That is not correct,” she said.

Ideas raised at the meeting included preparing pamphlets, signs and banners urging support for the levy and providing information to local voters. Having supporters go door-to-door to talk with people was also discussed, along with having informational booths or people handing out pamphlets and information at upcoming community and sporting events.

One resident urged the levy supporters to approach churches, community groups and other stakeholders in the Belpre community to see if they would be interested in supporting the levy to their own members and beyond.

Another meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the bingo hall to see what progress has been made and look for additional steps that can be taken, Posey said.