Friday, November 04, 2005

Of Levies and Agreements

I had the pleasure of being able to sit in on some of the “Town Hall” meeting this evening with the Township Trustees. It was rather interesting to see the dynamic between those in the audience and the Trustees themselves. There were some notables in the audience, namely Jim Moore, Marian Garrett, Jason DeBolt, and Danny Burns. There may have been others (I’m sorry if I’ve left you out if so), but I wasn’t able to mingle with those who gathered. “Stuff posted on the internet” was mentioned on one occasion, so I imagine that quite a few of our friends from the Discussion Board were there. Again, sorry I didn’t get to say hi.

A great deal was obviously discussed in light of the 1 mill levy that’s on the ballot next Tuesday. A couple of days ago, we stated that we could not endorse the levy. Look to this post to see the full reasoning, but briefly, it was to show the strong intent of the Village to press toward a Joint Fire District.

My position has changed.

It really wasn’t so much the candor between the warring parties (OK, I know they’re not warring, but that’s too much of a fun idea to let it slide). Valid points were raised on both sides about how things had been done. Time and again the past was rehashed until finally squashed by Dann Timmons, who was leading the discussion of the evening.

Two things changed my mind. First, it is apparent by the statements made by the Trustees this evening that they do have every expectation of forming an Exploratory Council looking into whether we have a need to form a Joint Fire District, and the pro’s and con’s of doing so. This this was the only with which I came away from the meeting, it would make my previous opposition moot, for that was the primary reason that I recommended a no vote on the levy. But there is a second reason also.

In the proposed Agreement of Operation proposed by the Trustees to the Village, there is ample opportunity for the Village Council to give the citizens of the Village a voice in many operations of the Fire Department. The Village would have direct voice in:

  • Selecting a Fire Chief
  • Contribution of funds above and beyond levied revenue
  • Rate of pay for fire and rescue personnel, chief and officers
  • Dispatching service
  • Large equipment purchases
  • Capital purchases
  • Policy decisions
  • Reviewing District business and setting District policy

The Village would also be required to have a representative at each of the regular Trustee’s meetings and would report back to the Village concerning regular business, thus “keeping tabs” on the Trustees to prevent them from making decisions without the Village’s knowledge. This representative would have the power to table any decisions that he/she believes should be presented to the Village.

There would also be quarterly meetings between the Township and Village (as was policy under other Agreements) to determine policy and discuss business (as noted above). The Agreement would automatically renew every two years unless one body desires to modify the Agreement, and they would have to provide six months notification before changing the Agreement. Hopefully this would prevent the current situation from happening again.

In many ways, this Agreement is an effective Joint Fire District, at least in the working of things. Perhaps there’s no “name on the sign” that would definitively point to such a body, but it is pretty much the case.

It is (now) because of these things that I can endorse the Windham Township Fire District 1 Mill Levy.

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