Eleventh-hour fire service cancellations by three Fulton County townships have placed the Wauseon Fire Department in a questionable position regarding its response to their fire calls.
At a Wauseon City Council meeting held Monday, Fire Chief Rick Sluder said that despite the townships’ violation of a contracted 90-day notice of cancellation, “Now we’re at the point where some of those townships feel we’re going to respond out there anyhow.”
Sluder said the city did not receive official word from Chesterfield, York, and Pike townships that they no longer want Wauseon fire services until the end of December. The townships requested that their cancellations take effect as of January 2020.
Sluder said because the cancellations were so abruptly received, the city fire department no longer has an automatic aid agreement with them and can no longer respond to their emergency calls.
He said City Council and the Clinton Township trustees, which jointly provide the fire services, must decide what action to take should the involved townships request assistance.
Law Director Tom McWatters III told Council members the city determined it is best not to fight the townships’ contractual violation, “but rather to affirm that the contracts would be terminated pursuant to their requests.” He added, however, that a letter he has drafted for the townships “indicates that our understanding is, we don’t have jurisdiction to come in (their areas), so don’t expect us to show up first to a fire call.”
And if the city’s fire services are requested by any of the three townships through a mutual aid agreement they may have to pay for those services, McWatters said.
Sluder said the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for the county’s 911 system, will continue to relay dispatch calls from the townships to the Wauseon Fire Department until the office gets approval from its legal department to stop.
“There are a lot of arms that go into making the emergency 911 system work with fire and EMS…All those options and all those arms haven’t been consulted with appropriately, especially when we got cancellation letters the last two days of the year,” he told Council members.
Responding to Mayor Kathy Huner’s concern about the city’s liability in responding to 911 calls from the townships, Sluder said under the Ohio Revised Code the authority to go on a property due to fire is under the fire chief assigned to that area, “and right now that’s not us.”
Following the meeting, he said the fire department is currently in a gray area regarding the involved townships. “We’re not saying we won’t go, but we need to get this legalized so that everybody’s bases are covered. Until that’s resolved, we’ll respond just like we always have,” he said.
Whether the townships will have to pay for those temporary services will be determined by City Council and Clinton Township trustees, Sluder said.
In other business, Council members faced a conundrum when they chose to elect Councilor Shane Chamberlin as their president for the new year but he was not in attendance to accept.
Amid questions on how to proceed, McWatters said Chamberlin could be voted in as president but the council would have to wait to finalize Chamberlin’s new position until he was present. He said completing the task through email or social media is not permitted.
Huner said, given the immediacy of requiring a Council president, it might be necessary to hold a special meeting to receive Chamberlin’s acceptance.
Both the mayor and other Council members expressed frustration at the situation. Huner said, although it’s acceptable for Council members to sometimes miss meetings for other obligations, “They should be present to be able to take on (a new) position.”
A special City Council meeting was later scheduled for Wednesday to allow Chamberlin to accept the position.
In department reports:
• Police Chief Kevin Chittenden said a candidate for a full-time police officer position should begin duties next week.
• Public Service Director Keith Torbet said his department will advertise for bids for a South Shoop Avenue water line project. He said the project is scheduled to begin this spring.
He said an unlimited garbage pick-up is tentatively scheduled for the week of April 27-May 2. Torbet said future unlimited pick-ups may be held through placing a coupon placed in residents’ water bills, so that they may participate at their convenience.
“It makes more sense for us, it makes more sense for them, and it saves on labor costs as well,” Torbet said.
• Finance Director Jamie Giguere reported that city income tax revenue was down 4.3% for the total of 2019.
Council members waived three readings and passed on emergency a resolution amending Resolution 2019-31, which involved language regarding wage increases for city employees, and a resolution authorizing the mayor to advertise for bids for a city water main replacement and to contract with the lowest and best bidder.
In new business, the Council approved the following mayoral appointments: Jeff Stiriz, Steve Schneider, one-year terms, Charter Revision Commission; Sue Dieringer, Larry Fruth, three-year terms, Community Reinvestment Area Housing Council; Keith Torbet, one-year term, Maumee Valley Planning Organization; Kathy Huner, four-year term, Wauseon Planning Commission; Ivan Hite, three-year term, Pride Wauseon Preservation and Design Review Board; Larry Frey, Rick Frey, member-at-large (replacing Jim Spiess 12/31/21), three-year term, Tree Commission; Michael Christman, Daniel Dunlap (unexpired term of Perry Rupp), five-year term, Zoning Board of Appeals.
Huner proclaimed Jan. 6 Elda Dehnbostel Day. Dehnbostel is celebrating her 100th birthday.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.