Jerome Township officials are considering ways to improve operations within the zoning and fire departments.
During Tuesday’s township trustees meeting, officials discussed new zoning software and a potential, upcoming fire levy.
Director of Departments and Fire Chief Doug Stewart said implementing a software program is necessary to meet the needs of a growing community.
“This is just another investment we need to move our zoning department forward,” Stewart said.
Zoning Inspector Eric Snowden explained he and other zoning officials have recently tested software from different companies. He said he asked for recommendations from zoning inspectors from “at least a half dozen” other areas and received demonstrations from the three most popular.
Between the three quotes, he said iWorQ Systems, a community development and public works software based in Logan, Utah, was the best option.
Snowden said the cost of the first year, 2020, will include setup and training, bringing the cost to $10,900. In the following years, the annual cost will be $6,500.
One of the features that made iWorQ Systems most appealing was the “portal,” Snowden said.
He said the portal will provide “public access” for those interested to apply for permits and track them online.
“We want to have transparency with what’s going on in the zoning department,” Snowden said.
Additionally, he said the software will allow Jerome Township to collaborate with other agencies.
The township also considered the software that the Union County building department and engineer may implement, but Snowden said it “does basically the same thing (as iWorQ Systems) for twice the cost.”
However, he said the difference shouldn’t hinder cooperation. The software will still allow Jerome Township officials to create accounts that enable other agencies, like those of the county, to login and view zoning applications.
Snowden said the service agreement is not a binding contract and will allow the township to retain all of its data. Even if service was cancelled, he said the company will return the township’s data in a form it requests, likely on CDs.
Trustees voted unanimously to approve the service agreement with iWorQ Systems.
Snowden said he is “very confident” the software will be implemented and running in January.
Jerome Township is mulling its options after the failure of a fire levy on the November ballot.
Stewart said he is now looking to strike a balance between what the fire department needs and what residents are willing to approve.
He recommended to the trustees that the township seek certification for a 3.5 mill operating levy to be placed on the March ballot.
A 3.5 mill levy will generate approximately $1.45 million for the township based on estimates from the auditor’s office, Stewart said.
For every $100,000 of valuation, it would initially cost property owners $122.50 annually. However, Stewart emphasized that non-commercial properties automatically receive a 10% reduction, bringing the cost to $110.25. Properties that are owner occupied then receive another 2.5% reduction if they fill out a form on the auditor’s website. This drops the final cost to $107.49 each year.
Stewart said he still feels the fire department is in need of a larger levy in order to meet the needs of a growing community, but needs something “just to keep the doors open.”
He said the department has applied for “every grant possible,” but even after being awarded grants it is still in need of extra financial assistance.
The department recently received the SAFER Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund the creation of nine new positions, which will be filled by March.
But, Stewart said a 3.5 mill levy is only enough to sustain those positions, when the township growth and response times indicate the need for a second fire station.
Trustee C.J. Lovejoy said he understands the need to appeal to residents who are not in favor of a levy, but feels “you can’t put a price tag on safety.”
“What’s our happy medium when we’re cut and dry?” Lovejoy asked.
Stewart said he understands the dilemma, but wants to appeal to residents throughout the township.
He specifically mentioned the New California development, which most strongly opposed the 5.5 mill levy on the November ballot.
“We still have a north-south divide,” Stewart said. “We obviously have a culture issue we need to work out – we are Jerome Township, not the north and the south.”
In response, trustee Joe Craft motioned to seek certification for 2.5 mill, 2.9 mill and 3.5 mill operating levy.
The millage the township will approve to be placed on the ballot must be decided prior to the Dec. 18 board of elections filing deadline.
In other business, trustees:
– Opened a sealed bid received for a 2005 firetruck that was replaced with a 2019 firetruck, since its frame was rusted out. Trustees accepted the only bid of $20,780 from Fire Unlimited, LLC. based in Appleton, Wisconsin.
– Approved a draft of a consent decree regarding a pending lawsuit with Homewood Corporation for release to the public on Monday. Trustees also set a public hearing regarding the matter for 8 a.m. Dec. 30.
– Announced that a swearing-in ceremony and Christmas party will take place at the Jerome Township Fire Department from 3-6 p.m. Dec. 15. Stewart said drinks and meat will be served but asked that attendees bring a side dish to share.
– Announced that a retirement party for longtime trustee Ron Rhodes will take place from 5-8 p.m. Dec. 19 in the Township Hall.
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