John Wilson, 84, an Archbold resident, former Sauder Woodworking executive, and business consultant, called out members of Archbold Village Council at its Monday, July 10 meeting.
Speaking on the issue of who will take over the Archbold Fire Department, he cited several experiences in his own life where being able to give and take in interpersonal situations helped him succeed.
But by the time he was about 40 minutes into the 50-minute discussion with council, Wilson admitted that he had stuck his foot in his mouth before, “and I might have done it tonight.”
He told council he does not subscribe to this newspaper because “the Buckeye and I had a run-in a while back.”
But, he said, his wife gets the Buckeye, and she asked him to read two articles about the fire department issue.
“I love this community,” Wilson told council.
“But you know what I’m seeing, guys, it’s being torn apart. There’s division started. And I don’t like that. I’ll be flat out honest with you. I don’t like that.
“This is my community. I don’t like division. That’s why I’m here.”
Taking council members in alphabetical order, Wilson forcefully asked two questions: Where do they stand on the issue, and how did they come to that conclusion?
Vaughn Bentz said he was in favor of more negotiation with the German Township trustees “because that’s the way I am.”
In part of his answer, Kenny Cowell said village officials had tried to work with the trustees.
“Well, you haven’t worked hard enough,” Wilson said.
Several voices began speaking at once. Kevin Morton said, “That’s very offensive.”
“Okay,” Wilson said, “so it’s offensive. You know what? I don’t like what’s going on. Let’s get serious and do something about it.”
Morton asked Wilson if he researched the number of hours village officials had put into the negotiations, but Wilson said he wasn’t at the meeting to discuss that.
There were raised voices and interjected comments, but Morton was able to ask Wilson, “Do you have any idea what you’re saying and how offensive it is to the people who have spent hundreds of hours to the trustees’ 15 or 20 hours?”
Wilson later apologized for being offensive.
Jeff Fryman, mayor, said sometimes decisions are tough and not popular, but they are the right decisions.
Cowell told Wilson the fire department debate was not a battle council wanted to wage, “but it’s the right thing to do.”
Cowell said the village has worked to accommodate the trustees on the question of ownership of the fire equipment.
But the trustees want a 30- year guarantee, something the village can’t provide.
When Wilson came to Kevin Eicher with his questions, Eicher said, “Well, Mr. Wilson, my grandfather gave the property to the village for the fire station… my father retired from the fire department. My son’s on the fire department.
“I have sat in this room and sat in the room over there where the township is, and been lied to by the township trustees– that represent the village of Archbold.
“I’m going to tell you something. I can take a little bit. But I ain’t taking the whole horse.”
“I hear you,” Wilson said.
“You’re supposed to turn a cheek and walk away, correct? How many times do you turn a cheek and walk away?” Eicher asked.
Fryman said village officials tried to offer things to “sweeten the pot,” but, “it’s been a constant draw a line in the sand, take two steps back, draw a line in the sand, take two steps back.”
Brian Huffman, a 15-year AFD veteran and councilman, said he wanted to be on council to help the department through some transitions.
He said he felt council “had done everything with the utmost integrity, and I don’t feel like we’ve gotten that in reciprocal. I would love to work out some kind of agreement.”
Ed Leininger, councilman, told Wilson he thinks Archbold can do a better job running the department entirely.
He said while the village contributes the most to the department, he feels the village takes a second seat.
“And that shouldn’t be,” he said.
When Leininger asked Wilson if he had researched the issue, Wilson said no, explaining, “I did not want to come in here with any kind of a preconceived decision.”
“I thought you said, ‘you need to give. There needs to be more giving.’ I thought you were rather strong on that comment,” Leininger said.
“I didn’t mean individually. I meant together,” Wilson said.
Leininger urged Wilson to seek the facts first before talking about who’s not giving.
When Wilson came to Morton, Morton said when the village filed paperwork to separate from the township, the first reaction of the township trustees “was to say, ‘we can take the (fire) equipment somewhere else.’
“They took public safety, in that moment, and put it in jeopardy.
“As an elected official of the village of Archbold, I am not about to let that happen. And if it costs me $1.6 million, I am not going to ever allow public safety to be put in jeopardy because of what three people are willing to do and the measures they’re willing to take.
“For whatever the reason is, it cannot be allowed to happen.”
Wilson suggested the village and the trustees go to a mediator. He suggested Shalom Ministries or James Barber, retired Fulton County Common Pleas Court judge.
No discussion was held on that suggestion in the council meeting.
Wilson closed his portion of the meeting by saying he respects the members of council.
The next council meeting is Monday, July 24, 7 pm, in council chambers.–David Pugh