Fire pact on hold after numbers questioned

LISBON

Village council was prepared this week to act on a new fire contract between Lisbon and Center and Elkrun townships until it learned one of the townships wanted more time to review it.

The new two-year agreement that takes effect Jan. 1 seeks to scrap the old way of charging for fire services, where the townships were billed on a per fire basis based on the number of firefighters who respond and how many hours they worked. Lisbon firefighters are paid minimum wage for responding to fires.

The proposed agreement seeks to simplify the process by requiring the townships to pay a flat fee in semi-annual installments instead of on a per-call basis. The contract calls for Center Township to pay $33,000 per year and Elkrun Township $28,000. Village Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner said Lisbon’s share runs about $30,000.

Center Township Trustee Ken Schreffler asked his board to defer taking action until its next meeting so he could get some things clarified, such as how the parties arrived at the dollar figures assigned to the townships.

Wonner said figures represent an average, which was arrived at by reviewing fire calls over the previous six years, where the calls were from, and how much the townships were billed and the village paid. Center Township is charged the most because it has the most fire calls over that six-year period and Elkrun Township had the fewest.

Elkrun Township trustees have also delayed taking action on the contract until some questions are answered, including why the contract does not state how much Lisbon is to pay, according to township Fiscal Officer Linda Eells.

Representatives from the village, townships and fire department have been working on a new agreement for more than a year, and Lisbon officials were under the impression everyone was on board with the final version.

Under the new contract, the fee will be used to pay for all equipment, clothing, etc., which replaces the practice of asking for additional funding from the village when needed. The contract calls for the bills to be reviewed annually and for at least one yearly meeting to discuss and approve future expenditures.

Any leftover money is to go into a special fund to repair the existing fire station or put toward building a new one. The fire station will continue to be jointly owned by all three and each responsible for the fire vehicles currently titled in its name, with the exception of two vehicles which are shared.

The contract for the first time will also require the appointment or reappointment of the fire chief be approved by village council as well as township trustees. Hiring the chief was formally the sole province of village council. The chief’s contract would continue to come up for renewal every three years, starting in 2018.

tgiambroni@mojonews.com

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