Millersburg: Change fire service?

Right about here, on Old Salem Road, is where Albany ends and Millersburg begins.

Millersburg is considering making a change in its arrangement for fire protection, and Albany, being its bigger neighbor, has a more than passing interest in the change.

The Millersburg City Council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Sept.12) on withdrawing from two fire districts, Albany Rural and Jefferson Rural. The Albany City Council heard about it Monday from Fire Chief John Bradner.

The northern part of Millersburg is part of the Jefferson fire district. The other part, roughly south of Conser Road, is in Albany Rural, which in turn contracts for fire protection with the city of Albany. This makes the Albany city fire department responsible for responding to alarms -- fires, rescues, but mostly medical emergencies -- for the part of Millersburg that includes ATI and other big industries.

As Bradner explained it to the Albany council at Monday's work session, Millersburg wants to be covered by one agency rather than two. Apparently one reason is that 911 calls in the Jefferson district are routed to a dispatch center in Woodburn, adding minutes to any emergency response time.

If Millersburg gets out of the rural districts and contracts directly with Albany, the change could take effect on July 1, 2018.

Bradner says there are advantages to Albany in becoming the agency covering all of Millersburg: One, it would not lose the revenue it now gets from the Millersburg portion of its contract with Albany Rural. And two, it would get added revenue by covering the area Jefferson now has.

The rural districts contracting with Albany Fire -- Albany Rural, North Albany Rural, and Palestine Rural -- pay the city $2 per thousand dollars of property value. That's roughly the same fire tax that property owners within the city paid when this rate was agreed to a few years ago.

Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa says that if and when it comes to negotiations with Millersburg about providing fire service to all of the neighboring town, she wants Albany to recover all its relevant costs. She says this might mean making Millersburg pay a proportionate share of the bond costs for Albany's new Station 11, the main fire station on Lyon Street now nearing completion.

Speaking of stations, if Millersburg contracts with Albany for fire service, it could also pay for building and equipping a fire station. City Manager Steve Hasson told me Millersburg has the reserves to pay for this. (hh)

The original version of this story has been edited to change the last paragraph to what it says now.

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