MEDINA TWP. — The Medina Township Fire Department, in existence since 1977, has been dissolved.
Trustees approved a contract with the city of Medina to take over the township’s fire operations Thursday night.
Trustees Bill Ostmann and Ray Jarrett voted for the measure, and Ken DeMichael voted against it.
The decision means the township’s 38 firefighters were without a department at about 8 p.m. Thursday.
It is believed that seven or eight already have applied for positions with Medina’s force.
Medina Fire Chief Bob Painter said 14 firefighters on the township roster live in the city.
He said plans already were being made to immediately staff township fire houses on Nettleton and Huffman roads Thursday night.
“It’s done,” Ostmann said after the resolution passed.
Several firefighters were present for the vote, some standing in the lobby outside the meeting room.
They were dressed in navy blue T-shirts with the Medina Township fire logo over the heart.
Some held up cell phones and recorded the trustees’ vote.
After the vote was taken, 13-year Lt. Steve Schmitt said, “We just lost our jobs.”
What the vote means
Painter said response times on calls made from township residents will be “equal or better than they are now.”
The township’s legal counsel, Bill Thorne, attended the meeting and sat with the trustees in front of a standing-room-only audience of more than 50 people.
Thorne said it is legal for the township to use money raised by a 2-mill fire levy passed by voters in 2003 to pay for its $230,000 contract with the city.
Thorne said the money raised can be used to “provide fire protection.”
Ostmann said the township likely will roll back the levy since it would be generating more money than the township needs for fire services.
Trustees have said the township paid $623,000 for fire services in 2016.
The trustees were able to vote after Medina County Common Pleas Court Judge Joyce V. Kimbler lifted a restraining order last week.
The Medina Township Firefighters Association had requested a legal injunction to prevent a vote by the trustees.
Kimbler ruled that trustees had not violated open meeting laws in the matter.
DeMichael opposed voting for the three-year contract because he said there was ambiguous wording contained in it.
He said he wanted more details included in the contract, such as staffing hours, including weekends, and response times.
“I wanted to go through it with a fine-tooth comb,” he said.
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, who sat in the front row at the meeting with Painter, told DeMichael the contract is worded a bit vaguely for a reason.
“If the three jurisdictions want to amend the contract, we’re open to that,” he said.
One of the arguments in favor of the plan was that Montville Township has had a contract with Medina for fire and rescue services for years. Montville pays the same $230,000 for its coverage from the city.
As the trustees moved toward a vote, resident William Thompson came through the lobby door in the back of the room and began speaking without objection from the board.
Thompson said he has lived in the township since 1978 and opposed the contract. He said the township’s fire services were doing fine independently and the township has the funding to keep the department as it operates now.
Later, Bill Goodyear criticized the move, too. He asked why the township moved “so rapidly” to make the decision. Goodyear said he trained the first township firefighters when they were hired in 1977.
Medina Township will still own its $2.3 million in fire equipment, but the city will maintain and insure it. If the township were to need a new fire truck, however, it would have to pay for it.
The township will continue to pay for the utilities in the two fire stations, a $14,000 yearly cost, Ostmann said.
The trustees’ decision means that talks can begin about creating a fire district for services, Painter said.
Hanwell said the city and the two townships would be included in discussions, along with a representative from Medina City Council.
“There’s a lot to be addressed,” he said.
One township resident, Pat Brown, said he wanted to “thank the former and current firefighters that served the township ...”
At that point, firefighters in attendance received a round of applause.
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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