Lisbon fire purchase not unanimous with townships
LISBON — Getting Center and Elkrun townships to join with the village in the routine purchase of six sets of firefighter turnout gear turned out to be more difficult than expected.
Village council approved the $15,000 purchase at Tuesday’s meeting, with Center Township trustees taking action on Thursday, giving them the necessary votes for it to go through. This was after Elkrun Township trustees rejected the purchase request.
The townships contract with Lisbon for fire department coverage, with most of the expenses split three ways. The fire department approached council in March seeking approval for the purchase, but council decided to wait for the trustees to act first.
When that did not occur, the matter continued to be brought up at council meetings for the past two months. At the last meeting on May 12, council was told the trustees were expected to approve the purchase at their next meeting. Elkrun Township then voted it down.
Meanwhile, the council safety committee met with Center Township trustees on May 21 and were assured they would give their approval.
Council approved the purchase at this week’s meeting without discussion. After the meeting, Mayor Peter Wilson declined comment, other than to say the townships wish to revisit the contract, and a meeting will be scheduled to begin those discussions.
Later in the meeting, Councilman Jerry Cox said Center Township trustees do want an inventory of what gear firefighters are receiving.
The fire contract was renewed for another two years in January, but not without some significant wording changes recommended by new village solicitor Alec Beech. He said the wording added to the prior contract giving the townships a vote in choosing the fire chief was illegal. The chief and firefighters are village employees and, as such, those decisions lie solely with council.
This was replaced with language giving the trustees authority to “participate” with the mayor in evaluating the chief and department officers and the right to attend fire department meetings.
The new contract also included some wording changes sought by the township clarifying ownership of fire department vehicles and cost-sharing responsibility.
In other action, Mayor Wilson presented a revised vacant building ordinance for council to consider. The ordinance enacted several years ago requires owners of vacant buildings in the downtown business district to make some effort to lease or sell them.
The ordinance, a watered down version of the one Wilson originally wanted when he was on council, requires the owner to register their vacant property with the village, but there is no enforcement mechanism.
“No one has done that that I know of,” he said, “and we have no way to enforce it.”
Working with zoning/housing inspector Zach Barkley, Wilson said they crafted a new ordinance that is easier to understand and to enforce. Property owners would be notified by the village they have a vacant property in violation of the ordinance and have 45 days to comply. Failure to do so would result in the owner being required to pay a $500 annual monitoring fee, which would be waived once the owner comes into compliance. One of the ways is to post a sign in the window stating the vacant storefront is available for lease or the building is for sale, which is the same as now.
“There are so many buildings downtown that are vacant, and some are falling apart, and that is a detriment to the entire downtown” and scares off potential businesses, he said.
Council instructed Beech to review the ordinance and report back.