2017-03-15 / Front Page

Trustees Refute Fire Department Proposal

The German Township Trustees are not going along with a proposal for the village of Archbold to take over total control of the Archbold Fire Department and charge them $141,000 per year.

That was made clear by trustees to Donna Dettling, Archbold village administrator, during the Monday, March 13 trustees meeting.

During the course of the evening, it was suggested that the trustees could take over total operation of the fire department, or that German Township could contract with five surrounding fire departments for services, leaving AFD to only cover the village.

German Township is surrounded by five fire departments: Mill Creek-Alvordton, Fayette, Wauseon, Ridgeville Corners, and Stryker.

The trustees said all are willing to provide fire protection to German Township.

While the trustees said in a later interview that exact figures had not been worked out, they told Dettling the cost to German Township would be reasonable.

Proposal

The proposal in question was authored by Andy Brodbeck, who was the fire chief. It was presented to Archbold Village Council and the trustees at the Feb. 20 council meeting. Brodbeck retired from the position a few days later.

The proposal was designed toward the goal of township residents, both inside the village limits and out, paying the same amount.

After a close examination of fire department finances, village officials concluded residents within the village were paying more for fire protection than those outside the village.

Discussion

The trustees made several points to Dettling.

Bruce Lauber, president of the trustees, said village council had talked about wanting to take over the department because one entity could run AFD more efficiently.

The current arrangement, he said, is very efficient, and it would be inefficient for the village to buy new fire equipment and possibly increase the fire levies from 1.1 mills to 2.2 mills.

“As far as I’m concerned, I find the (Brodbeck) proposal to be totally unacceptable,” Lauber said.

Skip Leupp, a trustee, said he researched what other townships are paying for fire protection, and found the most expensive service was provided to Swan Creek Township by Swanton Fire Department.

Swan Creek Township pays $618 per run to the township outside the Swanton village limits.

With German Township averaging 22 fire calls a year, at $618 each ($13,596), “You do the math,” Leupp said.

Leupp said one Swan Creek Township trustee told him what Archbold is asking for is not for fire protection, it’s extortion.

The one good thing that has come out of the debate over who will control the fire department, Leupp said, is Archbold finally took a long, hard look at the actual costs involved in the department.

Dettling and other village officials have stressed that property owners and residents in the village have been paying more for fire protection services than those in German Township outside the village.

In response to Leupp’s figures, she said, “I don’t know what you’ve been smoking,” but the operating budget for the fire-service side of AFD is $412,000 for 2017.

“That’s not an exorbitant amount to pay for fire protection,” Dettling said.

“But it jumped 100%!” Lauber said.

“For you guys,” she said.

She explained the $412,000 amount includes money set aside for the maintenance of equipment and purchase of new equipment.

Ruffer

Randy Ruffer, a trustee, said based on Brodbeck’s proposal, it would actually be more feasible “if we, the trustees, owned it– the whole fire department. The levy money all comes through us.

“We could own the whole thing.

“I’m not suggesting that’s the way we want to go.”

Ruffer said the idea of fairness– that is, township residents both inside and outside of the village limits paying the same amounts– never came up until recently.

But Ruffer said he has not found anyone who thinks there’s a problem with the way the department is currently operated.

He said in an earlier meeting it was suggested that Archbold had enough money, that it could actually cut fire taxes.

Now, he said, there is talk of taxes doubling.

Ruffer said that Brodbeck’s proposal values farmland the same as a factory, but the potential for loss in a field fire is much less.

He also noted that property owners in rural areas pay much more for fire insurance than people in town.

Ruffer also criticized the Archbold municipal income tax. The income tax benefits the village; those from across northwest Ohio who work in Archbold are required to pay it. They never have the chance to vote on the tax.

While village residents are required to pay German Township fire levies, they have an opportunity to vote on them, he said.

Income tax revenue is money “we don’t have access to,” Ruffer said.

“So we can subsidize the farmers?” Dettling said.

“That’s not the way I look at it,” Ruffer said.

Ruffer said Brodbeck’s proposal says German Township could pay for fire protection for 9.25 years. The township could use cash on hand, fire levy revenue, and money from the sale of the equipment to the village, the proposal says.

After the 9.25 years, German Township would have to come up with an additional amount of money, estimated at $76,106 based on a $412,000 annual operating budget.

“After nine and a quarter years, you guys own all the fire equipment. What’s to say the cost wouldn’t go to $200,000?

“Suddenly, now we’re at your guys’ mercy. The township has surrendered everything,” he said.

If it is the intent of Archbold officials to go ahead and take over the department, “That’s not working with us,” he said.

“That’s taking advantage of us.”

Unfairness

“Right now, with the fire department the way it’s set up, there’s a checks and balances system. If there’s an unfairness about it, let’s sit down and work it out, and leave things like it is,” Ruffer said.

“That’s not going to happen,” Dettling said.

“I’m sorry guys, it ain’t going to happen. Things are not going to stay the way they are. They (council) are not going to back down.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. That’s really sad,” Ruffer said.

“Here’s why I say that. Let’s look at this word fairness. How is that going to be fair to the people in town?” Ruffer said.

“They’re going to be paying levy money to us for equipment that’s already here… It’s going to get real unfair to them if you’re going to spend their money and buy a whole new fire department.”

Next Meeting

The two sides will meet again during the Monday, March 20 council meeting.– David Pugh

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