A change of guard has ended a long and sometimes contentious stalemate in negotiations for a fire agreement between the Village of Archbold and German Township.
An agreement for the township to provide the entire cost of fire services through a proposed levy was approved by Archbold Village Council on Dec. 18 and by the township trustees on Jan. 8. The six-year agreement replaces the most current agreement which expired Monday.
Because a levy wouldn’t provide funding until 2019, German Township this month will front the agreement’s first year cost of $238,000 through the trustees’ fire fund.
Negotiations for a fire contract moved swiftly once the township’s new trustees – Joe Short, and Andy Brodbeck – joined current trustee Kenneth “Skip” Leupp following the November election.
“The new trustees were really anxious to start working with Council and figure out, how can we get this thing done, so we can get it done before the expiration of the current fire agreement,” Archbold Village Administrator Donna Dettling said. “They hit the ground running, trying to work with the mayor and the president of council to make something happen.”
Dettling said the new contract was a matter of urgency for the trustees. “They wanted to get that done right out of the gate. And Council was all over that. It was important to them. There was motivation there.”
The parties must meet prior to the May ballot deadline of Feb. 7 to work out the details of a possible fire levy the township would request. No decisions have been made, but both sides have expressed interest in a five-year levy that would commence in 2019 and pay the entire cost of fire services in German Township.
A new fire contract between the village and the township languished in a series of unproductive, sometimes contentious meetings prior to November’s election. The stalemate focused on an agreement deemed fair to both the township’s incorporated and unincorporated areas.
Archbold Village Council President Kevin Morton said once the new trustees were in place a fire agreement was worked out by mid-December.
“We’re excited because I think it’s an indication of the way the new trustees are going to be willing to work with the village officials,” he said. “It only took a matter of a few meetings to have all of the details worked out with new trustees and the council. The exciting part is, the trustees that are in place now choose to represent the entire German Township, and they made that very evident and obvious, and that will be great moving forward.”
He said at least one of the former township trustees was on record saying he was elected to represent the township’s farmers. He declined to name the trustee.
“It was obvious in all of our meetings and all of our conversations, when they said ‘our people’ and ‘we,’ ‘we’ did not mean everyone in the village, or in the incorporated and unincorporated,” Morton said. “It meant the people in the unincorporated area, and it was very frustrating that that was their view when they were elected to represent over 6,000 people and they chose to represent a little over 2,000…It’s refreshing to have that frustration lifted.”
Morton said he’s most excited for the city’s fire department personnel that the disagreements are over. “Those men and women were put into the middle of something they didn’t choose to be in the middle of,” he said.
Dettling said she’s relieved the parties are finally on the same page.
“You can now start to focus on what’s in this agreement and move forward with that instead of keep spinning your wheels,” she said. “It’s nice to have closure on things, and then have direction.”
Joe Short, a former Fulton County commissioner who won the most votes in the German Township trustees race last fall, said the trustees want a levy “that is fair to all residents of German Township. There is not going to be one entity that is going to be paid more than another. And that’s been key, that it is fair for every resident of German Township.”
Short said following the election he, Brodbeck, and Leupp met with Archbold Mayor Jeff Fryman and Council President Kevin Morton to work through prior contract sticking points. “Once all issues were identified, we worked together to come to a fair and equitable contract that did not differentiate incorporated and unincorporated German Township,” he said.
The new contract expires in January of 2024.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.
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