The German Township Trustees and the Archbold Police and Fire Committee reached a tentative agreement on the transfer of Archbold fire equipment to village ownership.
The tentative agreement calls for the village of Archbold to provide fire protection services to German Township for 30 years, with provision for additional revenue if costs increase.
The trustees agreed they would turn over the equipment to the village without cost.
The agreement must be approved by the full village council before it can take effect.
The trustees entered the meeting with a request for 40 years of fire protection.
Village officials had mathematically worked out an offer of 20 years of service, based on a previous offer the village had made to purchase the equipment.
For several weeks, council has pursued taking over ownership of the fire department equipment, which includes trucks, firefighter turnout gear, and other equipment, to bring management of the department under one entity.
Under an agreement that has been in place for decades, the village paid the firefighters and provided the fire stations, while the trustees purchased and maintained the trucks and equipment.
The two sides met Tuesday night, Oct. 25, at the fire station.
In addition to the three trustees–Randy Ruffer, Bruce Lauber, and Skip Leupp– the council committee– made up of councilmen Kevin Morton, Kenny Cowell, and Brian Huffman– was in attendance, along with Jeff Fryman, mayor, and Donna Dettling, village administrator.
Representing the trustees was Scott Haselman, Fulton County prosecuting attorney.
Robert W. Bohmer, attorney, representing the village, was on hand.
Andy Brodbeck, Archbold fire chief, was at the meeting, along with several members of the fire department. They left once during the meeting to answer a rescue call.
The meeting opened with Morton calling for the two sides to come to consensus on the value of the fire equipment.
Based on information from Sutphen Corporation, which manufactured most of the fire trucks, Brodbeck calculated the department equipment was valued at $1.6 million.
Because both Archbold residents and residents of German Township outside the village limits pay property taxes to purchase the equipment, village officials calculated that Archbold residents had paid 70% of the cost of the equipment, while the rural township residents had paid 30%.
Village officials later adjusted the figures to 65% village and 35% township, and offered the trustees $569,100 for their 35% of “equity” in the trucks.
But during the Oct. 25 meeting, as Morton was preparing to work through the village spreadsheet of values, Ruffer, president of the trustees, said they were not concerned about the value of the equipment.
Ruffer said while they appreciated all the work that went into preparing the figures, he said the trustees’ proposal was to turn over the fire equipment to Archbold at no cost, in return for 40 years of fire protection for the township.
Brodbeck said he calculated the cost of a fire protection services contract between the village and German Township would be about $51,000 per year.
Fryman said $51,000 per year, over a 40-year period would be about $2 million. The fire equipment had an estimated value of $1.6 million.
And it was noted that tax revenue from rural German Township had only paid a portion of the cost.
At a cost of $51,000 per year, a 20-year agreement would have a value of over $1 million.
The two sides discussed other issues, then came back to the length of the fire service contract, with Morton saying the 40-year agreement requested by the trustees “jumps off the page at me.”
He told the trustees he was trying to justify agreeing to the 40-year request.
“I can’t get the numbers to work out to 40 years; 15, 20, 25– when I got to 25 it got a little bit scary,” he said.
Huffman said, “We came in at 20 (years). You came in at 40. Is there some wiggle room?”
After more conversation, Ruffer said the trustees would be willing to go to a 30-year agreement.
After more discussion, Fryman suggested “we both give 10 years.”
Among the many issues discussed was what to do about potential increases in the cost of fire protection.
Brodbeck said fire department officials keep yearly information on the cost of operating the fire department. The cost of operations can be erratic.
For example, a large fire, or a forced purchase of major equipment, could cause an unexpected spike in costs.
So the cost of operations is averaged over five years. Then, every five years, fire officials look at those costs and see if more revenue is needed.
The trustees agreed that if it is determined more revenue is needed, they would be willing to work with the village to pass a joint property tax levy.
Lauber noted that in 47 years on the fire department and as a township trustee, he’s never seen opposition to a property tax levy for fire protection.
Representatives of the two entities also discussed the future of two fire levies currently collected by the township.
Ruffer said the trustees would be willing to turn the money they collect over to Archbold.
But dealing with the levies would differ depending on whether or not the Fulton County Commissioners granted the village request to be separated from the township, a process known as “conforming of boundaries.”
Paul Barnaby, president of the county commissioners, said earlier they would make a decision on that request by the end of this year.
Ruffer said he does not want township residents outside the village paying more for fire protection services than those inside the village.
The two sides agreed to assess that based on property valuation, as opposed to a per-capita computation.
Another issue was a 15- day deadline for a deal between the trustees and the full council, established by council in a vote during its Oct. 17 meeting.
The deadline is to expire prior to the next council meeting, Monday, Nov. 7.
Morton said the police and fire committee would recommend that council extend the deadline a second time.
Haselman said with the basic parameters of an agreement in place, it would be up to he and Bohmer to work out the details.
After the police and fire committee adjourned the meeting, the trustees were asked how they came up with 40 years as their negotiating point.
Lauber said the trustees feel the equipment was worth more than the $1.6 million number Brodbeck had calculated with the help of Sutphen.
Ruffer, speaking to the members of the fire department, said, “You guys don’t have junk. You’ve got top-of-the line equipment.”–David Pugh