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Student Senate: Firetruck debate progresses

          As debate continues as to how Athens will fund a proposed new fire truck, Student Senate is undecided as to whether Ohio University students should help pay for it.

          Earlier this month, City Council passed a resolution asking OU to pay $250,000 toward a new ladder truck, about 25 percent of the cost.

          Senate's City and County Affairs Commissioner Nate Hall facilitated a discussion last night, but senate did not reach a conclusion.

          "I think there were a lot of very good points on both sides," he said.

          City Council's resolution was passed because most buildings in Athens that are three stories or taller belong to OU.

          "Eighty-five percent of the buildings this ladder truck would be needed for are OU buildings," Hall said.

"There's an argument that we'd be getting this truck for 60 percent off."

          However, Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith said the city has not officially broached the issue with university officials.

          "What I can tell you is, to my knowledge, the City Council never approached the university to have a discussion," he said. "Certainly we would be open to having a discussion."

          Hall said he was surprised to hear that there have not been negotiations yet.

          "If a dialogue hasn't been started between city officials and university officials, that's where we have to start," he said.

          Most senators agreed that the need for a new truck outweighed the cost, estimated to be between $2 and $7 per student per year for five years.

          "We do have some pretty tall buildings, and if you're caught in a fire, you're not necessarily going to be able to get to the stairs," said Health and Safety Delegate Mary Kate Gallagher. "... We do need a truck."

          Honors Tutorial College Senator Chris Wagner said the university's extensive use of Athens Fire Department services justifies the cost.

          "Being an RA, and being in the dorms, I know the ridiculous amounts of calls the fire department had to make to Shively Hall for burnt ramen ... We are using a disproportionate amount of the fire truck's attention," he said.

          But some senators felt that charging students who live off-campus would be unfair.

          "The city has been saving for some time - they knew at some point they were going to be in this position," said Off-Campus Life Commissioner Bradley Evans.

          "If you live off campus, you pay for the city services in your taxes, so in a sense it would be getting taxed twice," he said.

          University Life Commissioner John Calhoun said he thinks the funding plan has the potential to help repair Athens' fragile town-gown relationship.

          "I am conflicted because on one hand, we have a $32 million deficit next year," he said. "... On the other hand, we do need a fire truck, and I believe we'd be contributing to the community."


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