2017-03-23 / Front Page

Tension increases as Fire Board approaches majority shift

BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

CLAYTON TOWNSHIP and SWARTZ CREEK – Clayton Township representatives to the Fire Board say it was a coincidence that none of them made it to the Monday, March 20, meeting.

The meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum, which didn’t sit well with some representatives from the city.

The city and township take turns having a majority on the Fire Board on alternate years. The township regains the swing vote at the next meeting, set for April 17.

“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t meet,” said city representative Rick Clolinger.

Board members Ken Engel, Ted Henry and Tammy Kapraun were absent. Engel said he notified board Chairman John Knickerbocker that he could not attend due to work. Henry said he got sidetracked helping his son with a truck. Kapraun said she was delayed at a previous meeting.

“It just happened,” she said.

Monday’s Fire Board agenda included a vote on Fire Chief Brent Cole’s health insurance savings plan, which is included in the contract that was approved by a 4-3 vote at the February Fire Board meeting.

The insurance agency requested the action, which would authorize them to deduct the money from Cole’s pay.

Township representatives opposed both the contract and the deferred payment plan, calling the latter a legal means of circumventing Social Security laws.

At the Thursday, March 16, meeting of the township Board of Trustees, Treasurer Rick Caruso said he is looking into other options for fire protection, such as contracting with neighboring agencies.

“The effort to get along is getting harder and harder every day,” he said. “We have other options. Every issue should not become tooth-and-nail, and that’s the way it’s becoming.”

The township has voted with the city on fire department matters that were important to the city, but it has not gone the other way, Caruso added.

“You’ll never see a 4-3 vote in which someone from the city sides with the township,” Caruso said.

Curt Porath, a member of the City Council and a city representative to the Fire Board, said the township’s implication that the city is uncooperative is “unfounded.”

“There’s nothing that we’ve turned down,” Porath said. “Don’t take a single 4-3 vote, which came out of committee 3-0 with no discussion or added amendments, to say we cannot get along.”

Kapraun – a member of the Personnel Committee, which drew up the contract – said the document was brought to the Fire Board for discussion last month and the township representatives were surprised when city representatives moved for approval. The four favorable votes came from the city.

Porath also reiterated that city officials don’t know what the township wants.

“Have they asked?” Engel said in an interview after the meeting. “I guess this is a bad marriage. There’s no communication.”

At the township board meeting, Supervisor Chris Gehringer said he would like city and township officials to meet and “hash out (their) differences.”

“If we need to part ways, we part ways; or we find a middle ground,” he said.

The contract that directs how the city and township will oversee the joint fire department expires in November 2019.

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