VERSAILLES — Heads of the Versailles Fire, Police and EMS departments attended Versailles Village Council Wednesday evening to discuss Darke County’s Communications Levy.
The .45-mill levy, if approved by voters November 7, will create an annual funding source to pay for implementation and continued use of the MARCS radio system for all emergency agencies within the county, allowing for seamless communication between first responders within the county and outside agencies.
Fire Chief Brian Pearson, Police Chief Mark Humphreys, and EMS Chief Matthew Harvey expressed concern failure to pass the levy will create financial hardships for their departments. The county has agreed to pay the costs of the MARCS system for all agencies if the levy passes. If the levy does not pass, however, each municipality within the county will be responsible for funding the upgrade for their departments. The County emergency agencies are moving to the MARCS system in April 2018 regardless of the outcome of the vote.
“If the levy fails, all upgrades, all equipment, all user fees, all replacement parts comes back to each entity,” said Pearson.
The cost to set up Versailles Fire on MARCS without passage of the levy would be approximately $63,000 according to Pearson. Over the course of a 10-year period, he estimated the department would have to set aside approximately $18,000 per year for equipment replacement and user fees. Chief Humphreys said the cost would be similar for Versailles Police.
“I think we’re very fortunate here in Versailles because we’ve got a lot of heavily involved civic organizations and groups. We’re doing what we can to get out there and explain the importance of it,” said Pearson.
“If this thing doesn’t pass, we’re going to have to start buying us some radios,” said Humphreys, who said the Versailles Police would likely need to purchase three new radios per year.
Council expressed its willingness to help inform voters on the issue, including the possibility of sending mailings to citizens and participating in a townhall meeting.
In new business, council heard a recommendation from its Finance and Audit Committee for adjustments to the village’s water and sewer rates.
A study by the Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP) said the rates Versailles is charging for water and sewer services is far lower than similar-sized communities in the region and, in fact, is not sufficient to cover the village’s costs as well as maintain or improve the village’s water and sewer infrastructure.
RCAP had recommended an increase of 24 percent per year, but the committee, however, is recommending a 20 percent increase each year for four years. A fifth year increase would be 2.75 percent.
Village Administrator Rodd Hale said Versailles currently has the lowest water and sewer rates in Darke County, and lower than many other municipalities in the region.
A 2015 Ohio EPA survey shows, based on a 7,756-gallon-per month benchmark, the water rate in Versailles is $357 and the sewer rate is $311. In contrast, Arcanum’s water/sewer rates are $432/$804, Ansonia’s is $324/$360, Greenville’s is $368/$378 and Union City, Ohio’s is $575/$590. Versailles has not raised rates since 2015.
Statewide, the average residential water rate was $592 with sewer averaging $655.
“Our rates are much, much lower than anyone else, currently,” Hale said. “And they’re so low we don’t qualify for state grants because the cost is less than 1 percent of median household income.”
“The village is paying for the street department and some maintenance out of general funds, when typically this is done out of enterprise funds,” he added.
Residents interested in seeing the study and related materials may contact the village administration office at 937-526-3294.
Council has scheduled a public hearing on the matter at 6:45 p.m. on October 11 prior to its first meeting of October. No legislative action has yet been taken.
In other business, Mayor Jeff Subler signed proclamations designating the week of October 1 to 7 “Public Power Week” and the week of October 8 to 14 “Fire Prevention Week” in Versailles. Council approved Sunday, October 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. for the community’s Halloween trick or treat time.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com