Levy fails for Ravenna Fire Department

Kelly Mills

Ravenna has one more chance to keep a full-time fire department.

Yesterday, voters in a special election rejected a five-year replacement levy to fund the fire department. The department, which recently moved from being a volunteer department to having full-time staff, will not receive any money as the levy was supposed to replace the one already funding the department.

“It’s very disappointing,” Ravenna Township Trustee Patsy Artz said. “We didn’t ask for a penny more than we needed.”

The levy sought to replace the old one, which earned $585,000 per year for the fire department, but expired Dec. 31. The new levy would have increased money for the department, bringing in $900,000 per year.

The additional money is needed to cover rising costs on everyday expenses, as well as pay for the salaries of the new full-time staff. The fire department went full-time under the previous five-year levy.

“You have to pay your help. We have to pay for utilities, gas and insurance,” Artz said. “We have the same expenses that a normal house has or a normal business.”

The difference in price of the levies, however, would be offset by indirect savings for Ravenna residents.

Robert Cherry, chairman of the Ravenna Township Trustees, said insurance ratings for a home covered by a full-time fire department lower rates for homeowners beyond the cost of the levy.

Because the township would still need money to cover a volunteer station, the levy makes sense, he said.

Artz said a volunteer station is the least desirable option.

“If worse came to worse, if we keep failing levies, we’ll have to revert back to a volunteer fire department,” Artz said. “Nobody wants to go back to that.”

Ravenna Township Trustee Melvin Cole said there is still hope for the levy. The levy will appear for the third and final time along with a general levy for Ravenna Township on the May ballot. The levy has already failed once on the November ballot.

Artz said the township will try to campaign harder with voters for the May election.

“I would imagine we will go door-to-door again,” Artz said of the fire department. “They did it in November, and they did it again last week. We need to let them (the voters) know where their money is going.”

Cole and Artz said the Ravenna schools levy, which passed, might have contributed to the failure of the fire levy. Ultimately, Cole said it is the residents’ decision.

“You get all these levies,” he said. “People have to decide what they want. They’re the ones who tell us what to do.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kelly Mills at [email protected].