DARKE COUNTY — During its Wednesday session, the Darke County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to place a .5-mill levy on this November’s ballot.
The levy will be used to fund emergency communications equipment for police, fire and EMS agencies throughout the county. The county’s Emergency Communications Committee on Monday voted unanimously to recommend the enactment of the levy.
The money raised will be spent on such equipment as MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communication System) radios and pagers, a system projected to be implemented fully by the Darke County Sheriff’s Office by April 2018 as well as other agencies within the county. The goal is to have all emergency agencies on the same radio system. Currently, emergency departments within the county use a wide variety of VHS communications equipment, much of it obsolete, and making it difficult to communicate with agencies within and outside of the county.
The levy, if enacted by voters, will collect .5 mills (or half mill) on each dollar of tax valuation, which amounts to .005 dollars for each hundred dollars of valuation of taxable property in Darke County. It will be a flat levy, meaning the millage will be generated by the values of existing property tabulated as of January 2018, and will not fluctuate in the future as property values decline or increase. The levy has no end date.
“The communications systems we are using have come to life’s end,” said Commissioner Mike Rhoades, explaining that the Sheriff’s Office will be going to the MARCS system in April regardless of the levy’s passage. “This levy needs to happen. It’s necessary for people to understand this radio system we have now is not going to be working in April. Talk to your local EMS or law enforcement in your area and they can tell you it’s a necessity to have.”
“The board has done an awful good job of making our system last as long as it possibly could, but it has reached end of life,” said Commissioner Mike Stegall. “Now, this is a real safety concern for our first responders. This is going to keep them out of trouble. This needed to be done a long time ago and now is the time to get this done.”
Rhoades noted the donation of MARCS radios by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources earlier this year and a $500,000 state grant for a new radio tower in Union City, Ohio, lessened the amount of money the county would otherwise have sought through the levy.
“This covers every entity — fire, EMS and police,” said Commissioner Matt Aultman. “This money goes into a pot that services all agencies, a separate fund just for this.”
Rhoades reiterated the money generated by the levy will only be used for emergency communications equipment, not for salaries or for other county expenses. He also warned that failure to pass the levy will result in further headaches for first responders and citizens.
“If [the levy] doesn’t [pass], you’re going to see all these fire departments, rescue squads, law enforcement, and all these villages come back to their respective people, saying ‘Hey, we’ve got to go buy our radios because we can’t communicate back and forth,’” he said.
The levy’s final wording has to be submitted to the Darke County Board of Elections by August 9. The issue will appear on the ballots of Darke County residents November 7, 2017.
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