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Tempers flare as mayor details fire department takeover

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Dennis Hanwell

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MEDINA TWP. — Close to 100 people piled into the service department building Thursday to let township trustees know what they think about a possible contract with the city of Medina to take over fire service.

The meeting got a bit heated a couple times, and one township fireman called Trustee Bill Ostmann a (expletive) liar. The unidentified firefighter was asked to leave the building.

Before the last trustees meeting June 15, which lasted three minutes, the Medina Township Firemen’s Association filed a temporary restraining order against the trustees. That prevented them from voting on the proposed agreement and, per legal counsel, to not comment at that meeting.

That changed Thursday.

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell made a presentation on what he called the benefits of allowing the city take over the township fire department.

Hanwell documented when he met to discuss a fire contract with each of the trustees — all individually so they wouldn’t violate any open meeting laws.

The cost of the three-year contract would be $230,000 a year, identical to what Montville Township pays the city for fire coverage. Trustees said the township paid $623,000 for fire services in 2016.

Hanwell said he would not put any township residents in harm’s way with an agreement. He said his daughter, her husband and his granddaughter live in the township.

“I would not do anything to put that baby, my daughter and her husband at risk,” he said.

Hanwell also addressed insurance rates and said the city has a better ISO rating than the township. The Insurance Services Office assesses insurance risk.

Township firefighter, Mark Radice, however, questioned the validity of the mayor’s comments on insurance rates.

“You should treat the mayor with respect,” Ostmann told Radice.

“You should treat me with respect,” Radice replied.

Radice said he is not opposed to forming a fire district, which appears to be the future plan if the trustees approve the fire contract with the city.

“We need to protect our residents,” he said.

The firemen’s association and township residents have questioned the way the trustees worked behind the scenes to negotiate a contract.

Ostmann said they planned to discuss the contract June 15 and then vote on it later.

Resident Pat Brown said residents, not trustees, should vote on a fire contract with the city.

Under the proposed contract, the township would turn $2.3 million worth of fire trucks and equipment over to the city, which would be maintained by Medina. Replacing trucks, however, would be the township’s responsibility.

Fire stations in the township — on Nettleton and Huffman roads — would be used, Medina Fire Chief Bob Painter said. Nettleton would be staffed right away if a contract is approved, and the Huffman Road station would be staffed eventually.

“On the surface, it looks like a good deal for the citizens,” resident John Basilone said. “This could be the smartest or dumbest thing the board ever does.”

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



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