Friday, December 15, 2017 Medina
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Local Medina County News

Court order halts vote on Medina Twp. fire service

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    Medina Township Fire Station No. 1, 3083 Huffman Road, is shown Thursday night following a township trustees meeting during which a vote on Medina city taking over township fire services was put on hold.

    LAWRENCE PANTAGES / GAZETTE

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MEDINA TWP. — A legal move Thursday by the Medina Township Firemen’s Association blocked a bid by township trustees to turn over fire service to the city of Medina.

Medina County Common Pleas Court Judge Joyce V. Kimbler granted the association a temporary restraining order against a potential contract between the township and Medina.

The order prevented trustees from voting on the proposal calling for the township to pay $230,000 annually for fire service from the city. Trustees have said it cost $623,000 to operate the fire department in 2016.

On Monday, Medina City Council unanimously approved the plan and termed it an emergency measure at the request of the township.

Officials noted the city has provided similar service to neighboring Montville Township for years.

If the agreement had been approved Thursday, the contract would have taken effect immediately.

The township now is required to appear at a hearing in Kimbler’s court at 9 a.m. June 26.

Members of the firemen’s association said after the three-minute trustees meeting Thursday that they have chosen not to comment on the matter. Medina attorney John C. Oberholtzer will represent the association.

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell and Medina Fire Chief Bob Painter were in the front row of the township hall at the meeting and had planned to give a presentation on the proposed agreement. That didn’t occur.

Trustee Bill Ostmann adjourned the meeting at 7:03 p.m.

“There will be no discussion on the fire issue,” he said. “There will be no public comment.”

He said the township had been served with the restraining order “about a half hour ago.”

Listed as plaintiffs in the case are Mark Roberts, Mark Radice, Brian Mummert, Steven Schmitt and Ian Shirey — all members of the firemen’s association.

“We hope to vacate the restraining order,” Ostmann said. “Legal (counsel) has advised me not to discuss it.”

The payment of $230,000 by Medina Township would be the same amount Montville Township pays for fire service from Medina.

“We’re trying to spend tax dollars as best as we can,” Ostmann said. “Unfortunately, some firefighters will lose their jobs.”

Painter has said the plan would be for the city to hire about 15 firefighters to cover the new territory. Most, if not all of them, would come from a pool of Medina Township firefighters. According to the court document requesting the temporary retraining order, the township employs 40 part-time firefighters.

The document said trustees have negotiated in private a contract with the city to provide fire protection. None of the minutes of the meetings have been published and township residents were not made aware of any meetings, the court record said.

Court documents said the cash balance of township fire funds is $932,000, adding that there is no emergency affecting the financial stability of the township.

The fire department was founded in 1977 and residents passed a continuous levy in 2003 to fund operations.

The firemen’s association has been collecting signatures on a petition to stop a vote on the resolution. The petition was signed by 458 residents as of Thursday. Medina Township’s population is about 8,884.

The association’s complaint asks trustees for the following:

  • release all the minutes of the meetings that pertained to the contract with the city of Medina
  • not vote on the matter
  • prevent trustees from “illegally” appropriating tax levy funds to pay the city to provide fire protection and EMS services for the township.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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