Archbold, OH
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Fire Department Agreement Hits Snag



The village of Archbold police & fire committee is prepared to recommend Archbold file a second request to separate from German Township.

The committee is also ready to call for the purchase of new fire equipment if negotiations with German Township are not concluded soon.

Donna Dettling, village administrator, told the German Township Trustees at their Monday, June 12 meeting, “They don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

Background

Decades ago, the trustees and council reached an agreement whereby the trustees own the fire equipment, including trucks, hoses, firefighter turnout gear, etc.

The village is responsible for providing pay for the firefighters; most are only paid when they are on fire calls. The village also provides the fire stations where the equipment is kept.

Just over a year ago, the village started the process of separating from German Township, a process known as “conforming of boundaries.”

At the same time, council said the village would take over operation of the fire department.

The trustees opposed both separation and the takeover of the fire department.

In December 2016, the Fulton County Commissioners voted 2-1 to deny the village separation request.

Village and township officials have come to tentative agreements twice on a plan for Archbold to take over fire department operations, but each time the agreements hit stumbling blocks.

After careful analysis of how the fire department is funded, the police & fire committee discovered village residents were paying more for fire protection than township residents outside the village.

While both in-town and out-of-town residents pay the same German Township property tax levies for fire protection, village officials were subsidizing fire department operations out of the village 3.3-mill general fund levy.

A plan was developed whereby the township would request that all in-town and out-of-town German Township voters pass a new, two-mill, five-year fire protection levy.

The current fire protection levies would not be collected.

As part of the plan, the trustees would retain ownership of the fire equipment; as new equipment is purchased, the village assumes ownership.

Over a period of years, the village would own all the equipment.

Snag

In presenting the latest version of the draft agreement to the trustees, Dettling said the one major change is a stipulation that the trustees turn over ownership of the fire equipment immediately.

Randy Ruffer, a trustee, asked why the village had to have the equipment ownership transferred right away.

Dettling said she had been told the trustees “had warmed to the idea.”

Bruce Lauber, president of the trustees, told Dettling, “That’s not what I said exactly.”

Lauber said he told Dettling if a guarantee could be in place, the trustees could follow through with the transfer of ownership.

Ruffer said the village had concluded there was a problem with the fairness of the current agreement– that village residents were paying more for fire protection than township residents.

Ruffer said he agreed, and that the trustees were willing to work with village officials on the fairness issue.

Ruffer said his concern is that after the five-year term of the current agreement is concluded, there is no guarantee that the village will continue to provide fire protection to the township, and that without ownership of the fire equipment, the township would be at the mercy of future councils.

Dettling said covenants in the agreement provide for continued fire protection for the township, but covenants are directions for future councils.

They are not legally binding.

Ruffer said he wanted some provision in the agreement that would provide fire protection for the township for 20, 25, or 30 years.

“The covenants are the only things I can give,” Dettling said.

Ruffer said, “Now we’re giving up everything, and we have to totally rely on your word.”

Dettling said the police & fire committee is on record as supporting sending another request, or petition, to the commissioners asking for conformity of the boundaries.

“If we have to buy fire equipment, we have to buy fire equipment,” she said.

Keith Short, township fiscal officer, said bringing the change in equipment ownership to the trustees and asking them to respond that night was “a little unfair.

“They’re seeing it for the first time,” he said.

“That’s fair,” Dettling said.

Request

After Dettling left the meeting, the trustees continued discussing the matter, eventually developing a counterproposal.

Kenneth “Skip” Leupp, a trustee, confirmed that the terms of the agreement the trustees are proposing include a requirement for a 30- year guarantee of fire protection services for German Township residents who live outside the village.

In return, the trustees are willing to turn over ownership of the equipment and levy revenue.

Yesterday morning, Tuesday, Dettling confirmed she received an email from the trustees with the counterproposal.

She said she was contacting village council to arrange a meeting to discuss the proposal.



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