GRAND TRAVERSE RURAL FIRE BOARD MEETING MINUTES
4123 Vance Road
Traverse City, MI 49685
Phone: (231) 943-9721 •Website: www.gtfire.org • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
August 26, 2015
Special ADR Meeting held at 10:00 a.m.
Hagerty Center-Northwestern Michigan College
Chairman Tim Trudell Vice-Chair Doug Mansfield Treasurer Karen Rosa
Members: Fife Lake -Linda Forwerck, Grant – Doug Moyer, Green Lake- Paul Biondo, Long Lake – Karen Rosa, Paradise- Tim Trudell, Springfield- Tom Gray, Union- Doug Mansfield, Whitewater- Ron Popp.
- Roll Call –Fife Lake-Present, Grant-Present, Green Lake-Present, Long Lake-Present, Paradise –Present, Springfield-Present, Union-Present, Whitewater-Present
- Item of Discussion
- Richard Figura leading Alternate Dispute Resolution Mediation Meeting.
Mr. Figura began the discussion reviewing the last meeting points. The question was posed to all, what was the response from their Township Boards regarding the conversations of re-calculations of runs and splitting off into pods. He wanted to go around the room and hear what response that was received, beginning with Long Lake.
Long Lake mentioned that they had a special board meeting last night, and the information was presented to her Board. The Long Lake Township Board unanimously agreed to withdraw from Rural. She has a copy of the motion, and she would like to read at some point. They would like to keep the equipment, but they know that it is not in the agreement.
Mr. Figura inquired if there was any discussion on the second option “Rural Light”.
Long Lake reported there was not a lot of discussion about that. She advised that her Board is willing to work with other stations on whether it is an organized situation, but not paying into something like Rural. Long Lake wants to work with other stations.
Mr. Figura summarized- Long Lake does not see an organization such as Rural being in their future, though once they have their independence, they would be interested in pursuing agreements with other units to do cooperative adventures.
Long Lake added with training, with purchasing equipment. Long Lake feels that there is no reason why they can’t work with other Government units without being part of Rural.
Mr. Figura mentioned he had a discussion with Long Lake and Green Lake, recently. He inquired if Green Lake was ready to bring that motion forward.
Green Lake mentioned Long Lake did some action yesterday, and he just heard about it this morning. He did not know the result, until he read it in the paper.
Long Lake read their motion:
Motion by Mehney supported by Linnerson to continue Long Lake Townships intent to withdrawal from Grand Traverse Rural Fire, effective 12-31-2015 and to reject the offer to reduce our contribution by approximately $50,000.00. If Grand Traverse Rural decides to dissolve, the Supervisor is authorized to pursue retention of Long Lake Township equipment and to negotiate a distribution that permits each Township to keep equipment that they currently have to make sure that they are capable of fighting fires in a similar fashion as they are now with Rural Fire.
Long Lake reiterated, that this was unanimous and they discussed the calculations from the last 5 years. Long Lake Township has paid just under 1.5 million dollars to Rural Fire. They have put together their own budget. They feel that when we are giving about 74% of that milage money from our people in the Township to Rural Fire and working with the additional money to man their station, it seems like its taking away too much money out of our community. Additionally, Rural is at .72 milage, and they don’t see that sustaining Rural Fire at that rate and make it all work; which means more money for Long Lake to pay. Long Lake advised that it was not a long discussion.
Mr. Figura opened the floor to questions.
A few questions were posed and answered.
There was discussion of how it was uncertain if Rural could give equipment to Long Lake, due to the possibility of a law suit with Blair, if that was done.
Long Lake mentioned that they understand that is not the way it is written in the agreement.
The Chairman directed a question to Green Lake- wanting to know what Green Lakes stance is now.
Green Lake mentioned that once he heard of Long Lake’s decision to withdrawal, he certainly got a resolution together from his Board, because it would put them in the 40% position, because the formula. It was going to put them at a disadvantage financially. He met with the crew at fire department and he got feedback, and they felt they were at a huge disadvantage with personnel, because of the area, as if they were an island. They receive their assistance (back up) from Long Lake and some from Blair currently. He felt that financially it was going to be a problem, now he feels that logistically they don’t have the connection anymore where personnel is involved. That is an operational concern.
The Chairman asked, where does Green Lake stand? What is the general consensus of your Board?
Green Lake mentioned, he discussed the options with his Board, (Rural Light, lowering the medical calls). Lowering the contributions, would have been doable for Green Lake, but he is not excited about paying another $20,000, but its doable. We are tied to Long Lake.
The Chairman reiterated, he would like to know, because we are going to have to get figures together, he doesn’t want the Accountant to waste his time putting together numbers to have to have Green Lake pull out and then do it all over again.
Green Lake stated, his idea today, is he has a motion to make, to dissolve.
It was mentioned that, the Captain’s might need to encounter additional responsibilities. It was requested that the staff will need to create a list of all the things they do.
Discussion took place on the budget and operations of the administration, and if they could keep Rural with its administration, if it is under or at the .72 mils.
Green Lake has a motion that has an explanation with it. He has been thinking about it for a while. He mentioned that it is easier to keep Rural together, but it is inevitably a problem.
Mr. Figura posed a question to Green Lake- Let’s suppose Long Lake drops out. Let’s assume Green Lake stays in and the percentage goes up. While your percentage goes up, will you still have the same size contribution with a smaller number. Would that actual number increase? Would that translate into more dollars?
Green Lake states, yes it will. I think it will go up to $11,000. Do we put another Band-Aid on it and let it go another year?
Discussion of when Rural was started and the benefits of it. (saving insurance, joint buying power, personnel, and training, maintain among townships our loyalty to service and protect jointly).
A question was posed- Can each Township operate individually?, Long Lake and Green Lake said Yes. Whitewater said no, due to staffing. Fife Lake said they would do something similar like their ambulance with the fire side. They have worked closely with Springfield. Springfield would pay into Fife Lake. Springfield mentioned that with losing 55% of its budget, and Long Lake and Green Lake leaving, he doesn’t believe Rural can operate. Paradise said they could not operate individually. Union would have to pay into Fife Lake.
It was mentioned that there are places where all the stations come together to have all their ladder testing done, and purchase together. Paradise posed the question, who is going to orchestrate that? It was not certain. Paradise mentioned that we will have to go back to the drawing board, because Long Lake is out, Green Lake is 50/50.
Green Lake mentioned that he was sure enough, that he is going to ask all (Rural Board) of you to make a dissolution. With a known plan of action. He is not certain of the entire plan.
Union related, that if you throw that (the motion) on the floor today, I will vote no; because I am acting upon the best interest of my Township. At this point, he is not giving both of you (Green Lake and Long Lake) equipment today.
Discussion took place, regarding the expense of a fire station and the personnel. And concerns of what we are going to be in 5/10 years from now.
It was mentioned that if they are going to make Rural Fire work, then we are going to have to work at it and have to cut cost, and the top is the administration. Maybe part time person to run Rural, and freeze all buying and work with bare bones. If we dissolve then we need to look at our commonalities to make us stronger to serve our citizens. It was also mentioned how there are other fire departments that have part-time Chief or they give them some kind of stipend.
Mr. Figura mentioned – How does this group get together to analyze this and come up with some kind of decision in the little time that is left.
It was answered – there is formula, although they would like to know the consequence of dissolving. How the assets break down under dissolution. They would like to know the breakdown of daily duties, so they can establish manpower. They would also like to know, if we were to dissolve today, where the assets would go under dissolution.
Mr. Figura mentioned that the agreement defines how its dissolution will take place; it takes two-thirds vote (6 votes), but it provides that all the assets will be liquidated to the extent necessary to pay existing debt. The remaining assets are distributed to the member Townships based on the average percentage of their financial contribution over the last three years. Over the last three years, Long Lake has been paying 40% and they are going to end up with 40% of the assets. There is a separate formula for withdrawal. For withdrawal, the equipment for which it has donated, shall be returned to it. All other equipment and real estate is continued to be owned by Rural.
It was mentioned that if Long Lake and Green Lake are pulling out, they don’t see how we can legally just give stuff away. The question was again posed – what does Rural do for you (benefits) that you couldn’t do yourself?
Discussion took place that with Long Lake pulling out and Green Lake coming here with a motion, it was no longer a mediation meeting. It became a Rural Board meeting on how to survive without those two entities. So, it doesn’t do any good to ask what does Rural do for you.
Mr. Figura added what direction would you like to go? Talk about Long Lake & Green Lake leaving or creating pods with the remainder of you and do you want an overarching “Rural” and how big would it be and what would it do for you. Or you can you can talk about dissolution.
The Chairman added, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. But he would like to see a strong poll (not necessarily a motion) of who is in and who is out.
Discussion took place about serious restructuring or dissolution or amend the agreement.
Mr. Figura mentioned any agreement can be amended, to do what you are probably talking about is making an amendment to the agreement. The agreement you have, says, it shall be made in writing and shall become effective after the ratification by the Board of each Township. He recommends, that you might want to leave it up to Rural’s legal counsel. It could mean that the amendment has to be agreed upon unanimously by the Board of each Township.
Green Lake stated he had a motion with some preludes to it.
Mr. Figura added, If Long Lake does not change their minds and sticks to their guns and it was mentioned about creating three (3) different pods. Is that still a possibility, recognizing that the pods may be different? For an example, Long Lake would be in a pod by themselves, maybe Green Lake would be a pod by themselves, what does that mean for the rest of you? Are you still able to create a pod, will that work for you?
Discussion took place regarding the pods and how Rural can operate without Long Lake and Green Lake.
Mr. Figura mentioned, it sounds like there isn’t a consensus today to go to an overall agreement with defying the pods with some overarching agency, but that’s something that may happen. If you are all going your own independent ways in working out your own individual agreements thru mutual aid agreements or whatever. You might end up coming together in the future to save some money, if we had some other agencies to help.
Discussion took place on what would happen if Rural dissolved for each Township. It was mentioned again that they would not vote to dissolve Rural until they knew how the assets would be divided.
Mr. Figura posed the question to Long Lake, if the cost was considerably more to operate your fire station, would that change your Board’s mind?
Long Lake stated, she did not know.
Mr. Figura inquired if there was a consensus, to talk about pod and “Rural Light”, recognizing that the pods may be different, as you all thought they might be from last session. I am getting the impression that this is not going to lead us anywhere today. Is that correct?
It was mentioned that there should be a distance of “Rural Light” from the pod. “Rural light” is a functioning unit with a Chief, Asst. Chief and Admin. Assistant in somebody’s township hall with major changes to their duties. The Board is in control of their duties and they run the fire department.
Mr. Figura, posed the question, do you think this group could continue to function with Long Lake and Green Lake but have to slim down (Rural Light)?
It was answered that Rural Light Plan did not include Long Lake, but it did include Green Lake. He can created a plan to do something together with the remaining members to come up with a plan to do what Rural does for them now. Although, it would be financially stable and sustainable.
Mr. Figura clarified, it is his understanding that if Green Lake and Long Lake are gone, am I to assume that Grant Township would to protect itself, and it would align itself with them, as opposed to be part of the remaining group?
Grant answered, that would be a normal reasonable thing to think.
Mr. Figura clarified, so there will be five Townships remaining, how do you proceed with just the five of you?
It was answered- that you do what you do as Supervisors, you make the changes, cut the budget.
Mr. Figura inquired- Do we need to talk about being a pod and with whom?
Discussion took place regarding they can make administrative changes immediately to keep it together until we can reorganize into something that we can afford. And if they decide to break down the assets to our friends that have left, then the remaining Board can modify the agreement. Amend the agreement, to the fair thing to do, then act on the resolution. There was a comment to clarify- the five remaining members would continue on and if we decide to provide equipment back to the people that left, it would be up to the remaining Rural five members. There would not be a necessity to dissolve, we have dealt with the issues before us.
Mr. Figura mentioned that you will need some kind of information or an accounting for those of you who are left. Because under the agreement, Rural gets back the equipment that is donated, and someone would have to determine that, everything would be returned to Rural Division.
It was mentioned that there is no real estate and Long Lake has a fire boat.
Mr. Figura, summed up the conversation. Everyone is focusing on the withdrawal, and on what happens with withdrawal and there won’t be a problem with the assets. It was requested that Green Lake bring his thoughts to the table.
Green Lake handed out their motion to all and read it.
A number of townships have expressed a frustration with the current structure of Rural Division and particularly the funding mechanism. Long Lake Township has filed its notice of intent to withdrawal at the end of 2015. Green Lake has filed its notice of intent to withdrawal if Long Lake Township in fact withdrawals. It is apparent to the remaining township members that Rural Division cannot continue without Long Lake and Green Lake townships. Throughout the course of the past several years, and including the most recent facilitation session, a number of members have expressed a desire to dissolve Rural Division. The safety of our residents is of paramount importance. Therefore, it has been discussed/proposed that equipment would stay in the Township in which it currently exists and those townships would continue to operate their own fire departments. Some townships have expressed a willingness to depart from the strict dictates of the dissolution provision in the intergovernmental agreement. All townships have expressed the need to continue to provide fire protection for its residents. This can be accomplished through direct provision of fire services by a township or through the necessary mutual aid or other agreements. It is against this backdrop that I make the following motion:
I move to dissolve Rural Division pursuant to Article 19 of the 1996 Intergovernmental Agreement Creating Grand Traverse Fire Department-Rural Division, to be effective December 31, 2015, and to utilize the time between this vote and November 30, 2015, to work with the member townships to provide for the payment of the debts and distribute the assets of Rural Division in an equitable manner so as to insure the safety of the residents of member townships. If the member townships cannot come to a unanimous agreement by November 30, 2015, on how to pay off the debts of Rural Division and distribute the remaining assets, then dissolution will occur in December 2015 and pursuant to the provisions of Article 19.
Mr. Figura inquired if anyone needs to know what Article 19 provides.
Green Lake mentioned, it talks about how it’s going to happen, certain votes, and what you do with it. The problem of creating a “Rural Light” is, doing it in a quick one hour meeting is probably (not completed). He is not proposing that. He further states, there is a lot of stuff in the stations that is most likely going to stay there anyways. The fail safe is, you can always withdrawal your motion. We would not leave anyone without a fire station no matter what the 40% says.
The Chairman asks, if Green Lake is making an official motion, because if he is, then he needs a seconded on it.
Green Lake states we need to discuss it.
Union related that no way is he going to vote for this, because if it fails, we automatically dissolve. Union will not agree with this motion.
Green Lake related, you can withdrawal your motion.
Whitewater states, that the remaining members of Rural have to decide to be equitable; because it will have to go to our Boards if we have to change the agreement. Whitewater states, he does not believe this (motion) is possible. I disagree that we (Rural) are unable to continue, we are capable.
Green Lake mentioned that this is a format to think about. Unless he is incorrect, in Roberts Rule, anyone who makes a motion of the affirmative can make a motion to withdrawal and someone can seconded. You can always withdrawal your motion.
Union states, only if I have the majority of the votes are overturned, for the Board to do it. Discussion took place regarding theie fiduciary responsibility.
Mr. Figura reiterated the previous discussion and invited any comments.
Discussion took place regarding not approving this agreement as it stands, but not opposed to movement taking place. Points of consensus was made. There is a willingness to work on a motion headed toward the points of consensus.
Mr. Figura follow up – Lets make a consensus –
1) Long Lake and Green Lake are going to withdrawal.
2) Rural is not likely to exist without substantial change.
3) As the dissolution stands as provided for under the agreement with the division of assets is not desirable.
Whitewater stated he believes that the contract should be followed; he believes that any gratitude that we show will be done after they (Long Lake & Green Lake) leave by the remaining Board members. Paradise agrees.
Discussion took place regarding Article 19, is not the right thing to do for our community as a whole.
4) Five stations continue in existence and have all equipment treated equitably among all stations.
5) All want to see their constituents protected.
Mr. Figura posed the question, how do we get there?
Union has a #6- He believes article 19 should be amended to allow for the equitable distribution of equipment while we are all friends then dissolve.
Whitewater mentions, he is not in favor of dissolve.
Fife Lake discusses a possible motion (rough draft).
Motion to restructuring Grand Traverse Rural Fire by December 31, 2015(date not established), with the remaining member units by changing overhead costs and holding the budget to an amount we are able to financially sustain into our future, and reorganize so our basic duties are the responsibility of Grand Traverse Rural Fire (i.e., ladder tests, equipment). Within the same time frame, we will come to a mutual agreement with fire station equipment, so each station is able to continue with the fire equipment currently housed at their fire stations to include Green Lake and Long Lake”.
It was mentioned that we cannot do that, because a lot of their equipment is not housed there like in Whitewater’s case.
Discussion took place regarding equitable distribution to be done legally.
Mr. Figura to sum up, you want a resolution that is going to be ,in your mind, a result of an equitable distribution of these assets and the result that you want to achieve cannot be achieved under the terms of the existing agreement, either through withdrawal or dissolution. Is that fair to say? No one likes the Article 19 as it is written. How you achieve that, is for the remaining members, if that is where you want to go. You need an amendment to the agreement.
Green Lake states, all it takes is six members today to vote for this (his motion) and we move down that road.
Union repeats his fiduciary responsibility that will not allow him to vote on this (Green Lakes motion).
Discussion took place in regards to changing the agreement on how to dissolve it. It was mentioned that if we are not going to stick to the agreement that was initially created by the founding members of this organization. Why did they put so much time in making it so difficult or painful to leave, if we are going to just give it away. By selling the equipment to the members that leave, we can possibly pick up and restructure and possibly pick up other members, maybe Mayfield or stretch into South Boardman or Kalkaska or Garfield even down to Wexford County.
Fife Lake reads her vision of a motion (rough draft):
Motion to restructuring Grand Traverse Rural Fire by( unsure of date), with the remaining member units by changing the overhead costs and or administration and holding the budget to an amount we are able to financially sustain into our future.
Reorganization would state basic duties that are the share responsibilities of Grand Traverse Rural Fire, (i.e., training ladder tests, equipment). Within the same time frame, we will work to come to a mutual agreement on fire station equipment, so each station is able to continue with the fire equipment currently housed or assigned to their fire stations.
Mr. Figura would like to know- what if the attempt to this mutual aid agreement fails? What’s the default position?
A question was posed-Can we lease them the equipment?
Mr. Figura mentioned whether you talk about dissolution, coupled with the attempts to work out this fair arrangement or whether you talk about withdraw and the remainder of the units continue with Rural Fire and attempt to come to this reasonable arrangement. It seems to me, that either way you go, you are trying to work out a reasonable division of these assets that is different from the existing agreements withdrawal or dissolution. Maybe that is the area you should attack. If you can come to an agreement as to how the assets are going to be divided, that seems to be the toughest nut to crack and nobody knows what’s going to happen.
Discussion was made referencing there are six (6) members that wants to keep Rural with major changes, two (2) feel that they can operate for less money or have more control. It was mentioned that before they look at that motion, they need to see more information, because when they vote, it is the right thing to do and the legal thing to do. It was mentioned that there needs to be some action, as this is time sensitive, because Long Lake will leave at December 31, 2015 and Green Lake will follow. The Chief’s contract is up Nov 2nd , we have to recognize with this whole thing we have to put together today.
Discussed was a possibility of a leased agreement plan for Green Lake and Long Lake past December 31, 2015. It will allow them to keep the equipment with a lease to care for their citizens. Come up with a value in accordance to the agreement (no changes necessary) and sell them the equipment at a decent value (3rd party assessor).
Mr. Figura recognized that Long Lake and Green Lake are withdrawing at the end of the year and you now have a six (6) member group and that group will decide to make equipment available to Long Lake and Green Lake, either by sale or lease. The remaining entity could do that, assuming that you can come back to them next year and be reasonable. Is that what it looks like to me? How are these assets going to be divided among those of you who are here? There is no unanimity on the solution provided for the distributions provided for if there is a withdrawal nor is there any unanimity as to the distribution that’s provided from the agreement, if there a dissolution. You all seem to be agreeing on a different resolution, that’s broadly defined as an equitably division keeping everyone intact, but in any event to accomplish that, you will need to amend the agreement. If you are all on board with that then I assume you are all going to be a unanimous agreement as to what the amendments are going to be then all your Boards will agree.
Green Lake posed the question, why would you need to amend the agreement?
It was answered, to achieve those goals of providing you with an equitable amount of equipment.
Green Lake answered, you don’t need to amend the agreement to do that, and you can sell it to us.
It was mentioned, that before we sign on, we want to know what the budget will be, which is a reasonable request.
It was mentioned, This could be taken care of, so that our friends Green Lake and Long Lake are taken care of? We would have to set a dollar value, third party lease, they would have to take care of all the oil changes, tires etc., for a reasonable amount. No transfer of title, temporary use, then they can have the ability to control their fire department the way they want and easy use of equipment. It was mentioned perhaps $2,000 a month and the amount would be applied to the purchase price. So the amend the original agreement and we are helping our valuable partners out.
Green Lake says you don’t have to amend the agreement.
A question was posed, can we possibly restructure the formula. It was answered that it was discussed previously, but there is no better way.
Springfield mentioned an addition to the motion:
If member townships cannot come to an agreement (scratch unanimous) by November 30, 2015 to pay off the debt and distribute the main assets then dissolution will not occur.
This might protect the six (6) members left and keep us from dissolving.
Mr. Figura rephrased – you would support a motion to dissolve at the same time there would be a deadline of November 30, 2015 to see if an agreement other than what’s in the current agreement for distribution of the assets can be reached. And if that doesn’t happen then there would be a straight withdrawal.
It was mentioned that he would disagree with that, because that (Springfield’s addition) is changing the agreement. Mr. Figura mentioned that to him, it sounds like an amendment to the agreement. He would suggest to have legal counsel look at that, but again that is not his role.
It was requested that the Board would like a revenue end of the budget prepared using .72 mil that would not include Green Lake and Long Lake. The Board would also like a third party appraisal and inventory list (provided from Chief), due by September 4, 2015.
Special Meeting to discuss budget information on September 10, 2015 at 6:00 p.m.at Rural Administrative Office.
ADR Mediation Meeting Session C, scheduled September 17, 2015 at 10:00 a.m..
- Break Down to Caucuses
- Public Comment
- Public Comment – Timothy Shaffer – (resident) 309 Moore Rd, Williamsburg- He has concerns, with what goes on with ISO ratings, is this going to create higher property cost to residence? Equipment appraisal- is that loaded with equipment? Of jus the engine? You are talking about Long Lake and Green Lake leaving, but you haven’t talked about how you are going to keep Rural working. It should have been a red flag when Blair left that there was need to change.
Public Comment – Peter Zirnhelt (resident- Long Lake Twp)- No address given. Has there been any discussion on changing the formula that would meet Long Lake and Green Lake, it seems to me that you have a formula and Long Lake feels that they are paying a disproportionate amount of the total budget to the Rural Fire Dept., and that is because of this formula. So perhaps, that should be your primary goal to reach a revision of that formula that encourages these two Townships to stay on the Board. I feel that Rural Fire Dept is stronger with all of you in it. I hear you talking about appraisals, you cannot reach an agreement as to whether you can buy something without an impartial appraisal.
The question was answered – It is of Doug Mansfield, Union Townships opinion, that there is not a dollar amount attainable that would satisfy Long Lake Township to stay. Fife Lake answered and related that she had asked the same question not long ago and there is no wiggle room in that topic (formula change).
Public Comment – David Petrove (resident) you might have a lot of equipment, like computers, you might want to look at capital replacement in balancing things out, it should be calculated on age.
The questioned was answered – Chairman Trudell, mentioned, yes and no -it is based on replacement value –government is different than private/residential, it is based on the depreciated value.
Public Comment – Doug Manfield (resident) Union Township- I will go back to my goals to make sure my goals, to make sure the public is protected, it is always what it is about and we are going to have fair and equitable treatment.
Upon a motion made by Grant and duly seconded by Fife Lake, the Board adjourned at 2:52 p.m.
Secretary- Adrienne C. Haas
Next ADR Mediation Meeting-Session C
September 17, 2015