by Audrey Thomasson
LANCASTER—Citizens last week raised their voices in objection to spending $3.1 million on a new facility for Lancaster County’s emergency management services. While the plans have been presented to county officials on several occasions, it was the first time the public was invited to weigh in on the idea.
The meeting took place June 14 in the county offices. County administrator Frank Pleva and District 4 supervisor and chairman William Lee represented the board of supervisors. There were no representatives from the volunteer rescue squads.
While none of the 13 citizens in attendance objected to the need for a facility, many disputed the magnitude of the proposed facility and costs for a county of some 11,000 people.
“This sounds like a huge overkill to me for an area like this,” said Tom Jones with the Kilmarnock Volunteer Fire Department. “What you’re proposing is bigger than the state police office (in Warsaw). It’s an overkill. Sometimes you need to take a step back to see what you really need. This comes down to want versus need.” Jones suggested they look into shared facilities with the volunteer squads.
EMS chief Terry McGregor dismissed the idea, saying the facilities weren’t big enough. He said a new building would only amount to a $0.01 increase in county taxes on every $100 of assessed real estate value.
Jones asked how many of McGregor’s 34 employees lived in Lancaster.
“About a third,” McGregor replied. McGregor is part of the two-thirds that do not reside in Lancaster.
“Most of you don’t live in Lancaster so you don’t bear the burden of the taxes,” said Jones.
“Over 50% of the county is on fixed or below medium income,” said Charlie Costello. “We are not a wealthy county overall. Every penny you take out of people’s pockets takes away from them.” He noted the county is already proposing a $0.05 increase in taxes.
In 2014, McGregor began pushing for a new facility. His squad is currently occupying the former Family Maternity Center.
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