2018-01-10 / Front Page

Mayfield Twp. starts fire department

Officials seek more control; will launch in 2021
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com

Mayfield Township Supervisor Dianna Ireland said Monday she wanted to wait to discuss the reasoning behind the formation of the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. Mayfield Township Supervisor Dianna Ireland said Monday she wanted to wait to discuss the reasoning behind the formation of the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. MAYFIELD TWP. — The Mayfield Township Board of Trustees on Monday officially created the Mayfield Township Fire Dept., appointed an acting fire chief, and started planning for what will be the community’s fire hall.

The board voted 4-0 during its regular monthly board meeting in favor of adopting a resolution to establish the Mayfield Township Fire Dept., which is allowed per state law. (One board member was absent.)

Township officials indicated they will honor Mayfield’s current four-year contract with Lapeer Fire & Rescue that went into effect Oct. 1, 2017.

Tom Mitchell, a firefighter with the Deerfield Township Fire Dept. who lives in Mayfield Township, was appointed acting fire chief of the newly formed Mayfield Township Fire Dept. effective Feb. 1.

Tom Mitchell was appointed acting fire chief by the board after a previous resolution was adopted to create the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Tom Mitchell was appointed acting fire chief by the board after a previous resolution was adopted to create the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. Photos by Andrew Dietderich During a closed session, Mitchell, along with township attorney Michael Gildner, joined the four board members to talk the future base location of the new fire department. After the closed session, the board authorized Mitchell to present “rough plans” to Rowe Professional Services “to explore options for placement of a fire department building on township property.” The location was not publicly disclosed.

The board will host at least two forums to allow for further discussion and public input on the new department. The forums will be held Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m.

During Monday’s meeting, Supervisor Dianna Ireland briefly introduced the prepared resolution to create the department. There wasn’t any discussion after the motion was made and before the subsequent vote.

But Trustee Dan Engelman said after Monday’s meeting the decision essentially came down to one overriding factor.

“I think it’s in the best interest of the people of the township to be able to have control,” Engelman told The County Press. “There will be some better programs in place for our kids, our schools … and we’ll just have better control over how our money is being spent on fire protection.”

Engelman added “I think the residents deserve that.”

Engelman cast the lone “no” vote on Sept. 11, 2017 when the board voted 4-1 to enter into a draft agreement with Lapeer for a four-year deal that began Oct. 1, 2017. The previous six-year deal expired at the end of September.

He explained why he voted the way he did after that Sept. 11 meeting.

“They’re strong-arming us,” he said.

Engelman referred specifically to written correspondence from City of Lapeer to Mayfield Township officials.

“They made the statement in the letter that they would go to the press if we didn’t sign (the current contract),” Engelman said.

Dale Kerbyson, city manager, Lapeer, could not be reached Tuesday morning before press time. Lapeer Fire & Rescue Chief Terry Kluge could not be reached, either.

Kluge previously told The County Press that he wrote the letter and that it wasn’t intended to be a threat.

“It was simply if we didn’t have an agreement that I feel that I would have had a responsibility to notify the public that effective the first of October, we may not be protecting Mayfield Township anymore,” Kluge said in September. “I didn’t intend it to be a threat. It was simply making sure they were aware that if we didn’t have an agreement, we weren’t going to be providing fire protection to the township any longer. That’s normal course of business, I guess.”

Engelman said he felt the contract “is too much money”, and that he doesn’t think Lapeer Fire & Rescue officials go far enough to justify what it charges Mayfield Township.

Engelman compared it with the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept., which the township contracts with for policing services provided by five deputies.

“The sher iff’s department shows us,” Engelman said. “We have a breakdown of every dollar.

“We have nothing from (Lapeer Fire & Rescue),” he added. “They won’t give us anything.”

Per terms of the current contract, Mayfield Township pays $185,000 for the first year with a subsequent 2 percent increase annually.

At the time, Ireland said the current contract had been in the works for over a year.

It’s unclear how long Mayfield Township officials have been putting the plan to form the new department together.

Ireland said Monday there were “a couple of discussion meetings” of what to do with regard to continuing to contract with the city for fire services.

On the township’s official website as of press time, no public notices were posted for any special meetings. Nor under “meeting minutes” were there minutes from any special meetings.

There wasn’t any indication of when the discussion meetings were held or who was involved in crafting the resolution, which in part reads:

“Whereas, the increase of contractual services, the population growth of Mayfield Township, the increase in building activity, and the rapid increase in the value of buildings and structures are such that the comparative value for fire protection is a necessity … the Mayfield Town Board does hereby establish the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. Said Department shall acquire equipment, employ firemen (sic), appoint officers, and follow such regulations as this Board may direct.”

Similarly in appointing Mitchell acting fire chief, there wasn’t any discussion on how he came to be the one for the position either before or after a motion was made to do so.

After the meeting, Ireland said she preferred to talk about such details behind the township forming a new fire department at the scheduled public forums.

Ireland also deferred to the public forums to discuss potential funding sources when Treasurer Dan Frisch raised the question.

Mitchell told The County Press that he was approached about the potential opportunity to be the fire chief for the Mayfield Township Fire Dept.

Mitchell said he intends to build the fire department to essentially emulate the Deerfield Township Fire Dept., which he said is “a top-notch fire department” that relies on paid on-call responders. He noted that prior to Monday’s meeting he had been given approval by the Deerfield Township Fire Dept. chief to continue serving there while working on the Mayfield appointment.

“I look forward to it,” he said. “It’s going to be fun and challenging.”

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