2017-10-11 / Front Page

Fire Department Issue Drags On

Archbold Village Council took no action on a resolution to roll back seven-tenths (.7) mill if a proposed two-mill fire department levy passes.

Council and the German Township Trustees met for their regular meetings, Monday night, Oct. 9.

Both sides discussed the contract for the operation of the Archbold-German Township Fire Department.

The topic has been in negotiations since June 2016, when Archbold initially proposed separating the village from the township.

The Fulton County Commissioners denied a first bid for separation. A second request is pending.

For decades, the village and the trustees have worked cooperatively to operate the fire department. The village provides the manpower and the fire stations. The township owns the fire equipment, including the fire trucks.

During the negotiations, councilmen discovered Archbold was paying more to operate the fire department than residents of the township who are outside the village limits.

Donna Dettling, village administrator, came up with a plan in which German Township would put a new two-mill levy on the Nov. 7 ballot, and pass the money onto the village.

In turn, the trustees would not collect two present fire levies: one-half (.5) mill and six-tenths (.6) mill.

Archbold would roll back seven-tenths (.7) mill of the village 3.3-mill operating levy.

The sticking point has been the ownership of the fire equipment. Archbold wants to either purchase the current fire equipment, or at a minimum, own the equipment over time.

As township-owned equipment is obsolete or worn out, it would be replaced by new village-owned equipment.

Those agreements have failed.

Council has threatened to buy replacement fire equipment, including new trucks. The estimated cost is between $1.6 million to $2 million.

Trustees

While there is no agreement on fire equipment ownership, both sides have agreed, in concept, to equity, meaning both Archbold residents and township residents outside the village limits would pay the same tax rate.

The trustees have agreed to put the two-mill levy on the ballot, and passed a measure that would roll back, or not collect, the two older fire department levies.

The rollback agreement is contingent on two factors: the passage of the two-mill levy, and a fire service contract in place with the village of Archbold.

The current contract between the two entities expires Jan. 18, 2018.

The village made a “last best” contract offer to the trustees, which includes village ownership of the equipment.

A counterproposal from the trustees included a section calling for continued ownership.

The trustees have discussed the possibility of asking that the two-mill levy either be pulled from the ballot, or asking the Fulton County Board of Elections not to count the votes on the levy request.

At its Sept. 25 meeting, council tabled a vote on its seven-tenths (.7) mill rollback request. Council did not vote on the request on Oct. 9.

The proposed village rollback measure has three conditions: passage of the twomill levy, German Township agreeing to roll back the two fire levies, and there being a fire service agreement or contract between the township and the village.

Discussion

Ed Leininger, councilman, asked what happens if the village agrees to a temporary extension of the fire service agreement and the two-mill levy passes.

“So you’ll go ahead and run back seven-tenths of a mill, but you won’t have an agreement in a form that you desire,” Leininger said. “Is that appropriate?”

Vaughn Bentz, councilman who has been a dissenting voice, said ownership of the equipment had been a sticking point. He would rather at least work out the pay inequity issue.

“We’ve done nothing for how long? At least we’d be one step closer to the desired goal,” Bentz said.

Kenny Cowell, councilman, said, “In my opinion, we should start looking at our own trucks.”

Bentz said he could not vote for purchasing new equipment when there is good equipment in the fire stations which the village has the ability to use.

The inequity in payment was discussed, but Bentz said the inequity was council’s fault, and that council should have caught that.

Morton noted if German Township creates a separate township fire department, they are still obligated to answer calls in Archbold.

The issue of the pending separation request also was discussed.

The commissioners, who decide separation issues, have given no indication on when they would decide.

Council members decided not to act on the rollback request.

Trustees

In the meantime, at the township trustees meeting, Kenneth “Skip” Leupp, a trustee, asked if they were willing to let the levy go through.

“We’ve got to think about what we want to do,” said Bruce Lauber, president of the trustees.

Randy Ruffer, a trustee, said there is one more meeting before the election.

“I would like to know where they (council) are at,” he said.

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Man is what he eats.–German Proverb

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