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Issue to fund new Chatham fire station fails in special election

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    Lt. Mike Farren, Chief Bill Disbrow and Cpt. Tim Mennell (left to right) of the Chatham Township Fire Department along with Carlee and Perry Mennell await special election results Tuesday. Township voters later rejected a 2.7-mill bond issue that would have funded construction of a new fire station.



CHATHAM TWP. — A single bond issue that would have funded construction of a new fire station and safety services building on Avon Lake Road was rejected by voters in a special election on Tuesday.

The measure failed with 184 votes against the issue to 80 votes in favor, according to unofficial results shared by township trustee Denise Gumbita shortly after polls closed.

If the 2.7-mill issue had passed, property owners would have paid an additional $100 per $100,000 of tax valuation per year with the goal of raising $2.8 million over a 25- to 29-year period.

Gumbita said she and other officials will regroup and put the issue before voters again during November’s general election.

“We’re going to encourage people to run the millage through the auditor’s website to see what their actual cost will be,” she said.

“I don’t know of any thoughts to change the millage. We came to this project with a pretty bare bones approach. We didn’t want to ask for more than what was needed and really wanted to stress durability and functionality. Nothing is dress and show.”

Chatham Township is divided by state Route 162 into two halves. The northern half was significantly more supportive of the issue with 58 yes votes as opposed to 80 against. In the southern half, the margin was 104-22 against, Gumbita said.

Proposed plans for a new 12,500-square-foot station call for on-site showers, office space, equipment cleaning areas, air conditioning, bunking quarters, and at least one extra truck bay. If results are different in November, township officials said the plan is to sell the 6429 Kohli Drive property where the current station is located.

Fire Chief Bill Disbrow has stressed the importance of the improvements as vital in keeping up with new safety standards meant to cut down on firefighter’s increased cancer risks.

He said efforts to get word out about the issue may have played a factor in the outcome.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We didn’t put any signs out and it was just thrown out there for a special vote without advertising. In a small town like ours, an election like this becomes common knowledge. I think the people who’d vote yes for us need a little more push to come out and vote.

“We’re definitely going to have to talk to the public and have meetings like they did over in Westfield. The bad part about that is, the public is never happy until they take the ticket amount and decrease it. I guess we can all be like that.”

The township plans to still move ahead with purchasing a new $483,000 hybrid fire truck that will replace its heavy-duty rescue vehicle and one older truck, Gumbita and Disbrow said on Tuesday.

“If you live in Chatham right now on average you own a $200,000 home,” said Disbrow. “If this passed today, that’s $200 more on your taxes every year. That’s a pretty good chunk.

“Although, here in Chatham we have some of the lowest taxes in the county. We’re still going to move ahead with some new safety efforts but there’s still no showers.

“I’m not sure what we’ll do about that.”

A recent study conducted by the National Fire Protection Association said firefighters face a 9 percent higher chance of cancer diagnosis and a14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths compared with the rest of the population.

Some of that cancer risk is attributed to continued use of protective equipment that has not been cleaned properly.

Contact reporter Jonathan Delozier at (330) 721-4050 or

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