ST. PARIS – On November 2, Johnson-St. Paris (JSP) Joint Fire District will ask voters to approve a new EMS levy in addition to renewing the current fire services levy.
The JSP Fire District Fire Protection Services levy consists of a 5-year, 2.25-mill levy. JSP states that this levy will contribute to fire-related emergency equipment, training, and personnel.
Since this levy is a renewal, it will not increase current property taxes, and will cost the average citizen of Johnson Township or the village of St. Paris $65 per year, or 18 cents per day. These figures are based on a $100,000 property and may vary based on actual property value.
JSP also has an additional levy on the November ballot: a new 5-year, 4.9-mill levy that would benefit the EMS portion of the department.
Using the same example of a $100,000 property, the new JSP Fire District EMS levy would cost the average taxpayer about $171 per year, or 47 cents per day.
If passed, this levy would provide new emergency medical equipment and additional training for EMT staff, as well as give JSP the opportunity to house more paid EMT personnel.
Both JSP Fire Board President Jack Purk and JSP board member Terry Ervin are emphatic about the district’s need for the requested funding.
“We’ve cut and cut, and we just can’t do it anymore and keep the same level of service that people have become used to and that we want to provide for the citizens of the township and the village,” Ervin said.
Both the renewal fire levy and the new EMS levy are vital to the smooth functioning of the department, as JSP cannot utilize funds from fire for EMS purposes and vice versa.
However, both levies support facility maintenance at the firehouse as well as general necessities, such as upgrading the Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS) radio scanners.
Currently, JSP houses 3 medic trucks that can be utilized for runs and must be up-to-date with furnished equipment. As far as personnel, the department has grown to 35 members: 14 volunteer firefighters and 21 paid EMS personnel (though several individuals cross over and perform both roles).
Purk also mentioned the necessity of constantly updating medical equipment used in the squad trucks to both maintain compliance with hospital regulations and administer the most competent, accurate, and fast-paced service in emergency situations.
“We want to be as up to date as we can for the public,” Ervin said.
Ervin also spoke to the peace of mind that reliable emergency services can bring.
“You may not use (emergency services) often, but when you need it, you need it,” Ervin said. “We want it to be there for people. You want the best-quality training, people, and equipment, because it can make a difference. As a citizen, that’s what I expect.”
By the numbers
As Ervin points out, the statistics speak for themselves. In 2020, JSP responded to 783 fire and EMS calls, which is 66 calls for service per month. So far in 2021, as of September 1, the department has responded to 602 calls for service, averaging out to 75 calls per month – already nine more per month than the previous year. The frequency of these calls wears on equipment and requires more paid manpower.
“The trend is up,” Ervin said. “The demand and the need is increasing.”
Moreover, Purk noted that each call, no matter the need, is crucial and significant.
“We’ve heard over and over; no matter how serious the call is, when someone calls in, it is an emergency to them,” Purk said. “It may be trivial at the end, but when that call comes in, we have to be up and ready to go.”
In light of JSP Chief Scott Massie’s pending retirement from heading up the department, neither Purk nor Ervin feel that the shift in leadership will affect the outcome of the levy.
Assistant Chief Ben Pence, Sr. has been on staff even longer than Massie, and various board members and district personnel have similar longevity in the organization, upholding a comforting level of familiarity and experience.
“I think there’s enough continuity,” Purk said.
Getting the word out
In order to promote the new levy and raise community awareness, JSP personnel will be posting signs around Johnson Township and St. Paris, as well as going door-to-door in coming weeks with informational flyers. Additionally, information will be shared on web and social media pages, and an education video on the levies is currently posted on YouTube.
Also, JSP will hold its fall fish fry on October 23 from 4-7 p.m. at the firehouse. This event will be a prime opportunity for citizens to converse with and ask questions of fire and EMS personnel regarding the projected use of the levy funds.
Both Ervin and Purk feel confident that the levy will succeed.
“People want to be taken care of in an emergency,” Purk said.
Ervin echoed Purk’s sentiment, reiterating the district’s need for the funding to continue its established standard of service.
“We wouldn’t be asking for the money if we didn’t need it,” Ervin said. “I think that’s what needs to be conveyed. We’re not shooting for the moon; we’re shooting for what’s appropriate and what’s necessary.”
Overall, Purk summarizes the Fire Board’s and the district’s main goal: to serve its community consistently and well.
“People have been appreciative of what we’ve done in the past, and we just want to continue and better that service for them going forward,” Purk said.
Reach Katie at UDCeditor@aimmediamidwest.com