January 30, 2003
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Miami Township trustees business—
Farmland fund re-established

The Miami Township trustees agreed last week to re-establish the Township’s farmland preservation fund, but not without a lengthy deliberation.

The agreement means that $103,000 will remain in the fund, which can be used to help preserve farmland in Miami Township. The funds, for instance, could be used to place easements on farmland.

Meeting on Jan. 22, the trustees approved the action by a 2–1 vote. Chris Mucher, president of the Board of Trustees, and trustee Mark Crockett voted yes; Lamar Spracklen voted no.

Spracklen said that the Township should have the fund but questioned the amount as being excessive when compared to the Township’s other priorities. He pointed out that the trustees have established a three-year fund to purchase a used salt truck to replace the road department’s current truck, which was purchased in 1982.

“We have 22 pieces of equipment, fire trucks and ambulances, and if we don’t have the money to take care of these things we have to go to the taxpayers,” Spracklen said.

He pointed out that the resolution to re-establish the fund calls for unspecified increases in the future. “I’d be in favor of establishing a lesser amount and then adding to it when there’s a definite need,” he said. “Otherwise the money can be used for other emergencies.”

Spracklen said that the Township could help with efforts to preserve farmland through more restrictive zoning measures.

But trustee Chris Mucher said that easements give the landowner a choice to enter into an agreement for the future use of the land, whereas zoning imposes the regulation.

“The local uproar would be horrendous,” Mucher said.

Trustee Mark Crockett said that the trustees could always dissolve the fund if the Township would need extra money in an emergency.

“In using the taxpayers’ money we should use it for things that benefit the taxpayers,” he said. “I think we’re doing that here.”

Spracklen also expressed concern about the future of both the Township’s fund and the use of the land that is purchased with it. He also said that he was concerned that it could be difficult to release the land from easement status if it is later determined impractical to farm.

During the meeting, representatives of Tecumseh Land Trust expressed support for green space and farmland preservation.

The land trust’s Julia Cady emphasized the need to have local funds in place to purchase easements or land that may be placed on the market. State and federal programs will match 50 to 75 percent of the cost of an easement if the landowner and, in some cases, a public entity, can provide the other 25 to 50 percent, she said.

“The reason the fund needs to accumulate is because you never know when a farm will come up for sale and a landowner will come forward needing help buying an easement,” Cady said. “You’re saying how you want the land around your town used. It’s an opportunity at a local level to prevent urban sprawl.”

Cady said that there were two large landowners in Miami Township who were planning to apply for easement funds this year.

The last time the trustees used farmland preservation funds to purchase an easement was in 1999, when the Township contributed $13,700 toward the purchase of Whitehall Farm. Funds from private and public donations were used to buy an easement on the farm after it was purchased by two local residents at auction.

The Township currently places estate tax revenue into the preservation fund. But with the revocation of the estate tax in Ohio, Mucher said, the Township may lose that funding source.

“It’s very forward thinking on your part,” Cady told the trustees. “People who have chosen this program are grateful and excited

. . . and the Township could be a leader for others.”

* * *

In other Township business:

• Mucher requested that Fire Chief Colin Altman assess Grinnell Mill, which is owned by Antioch College, for status as a potential fire hazard. Mucher said that in light of historical events the trustees were concerned for the preservation of the structure and for the public’s safety. Glen Helen’s Red Barn burned down last fall.

• Altman reported on a potential ballot issue in Greene County that would upgrade and standardize the county’s emergency radio communication to a high frequency 800-megahertz system. All of the agencies in Xenia operate on the 800-megahertz system, but many others in the county are on a VHF frequency that can only communicate within its own frequency. The VHF system crowds nine fire departments onto one frequency, saturating the airwaves and isolating the outlying areas from communication with other systems, Altman said.

The Greene County commissioners are considering placing on the ballot a 0.25 percent sales tax increase to fund the new radio system. The issue would raise $4 million a year to fund a safer and easier communication system for the county, Altman said.

• Altman reported that the State of Ohio passed an unfunded mandate requiring background checks on all new employees. The new search rights would allow the fire department the same access to records that police departments have, Altman said. The law also prohibits the exclusion of convicted felons, requiring the department to notify any applicant of resources available to become eligible if he or she doesn’t meet the requirements. The estimated cost is $6–10 a person for each background check, but that figure could go up, Altman said.

• Altman also reported on a new statewide emergency mutual aid program that would allow all municipalities in the state to get help from neighboring cities for emergencies without needing to have a mutual aid contract in place. The program will not cost the Township any money, he said.


—Lauren Heaton