MADISON TOWNSHIP — Madison Township firefighters murmured angrily Sunday as trustees began discussing the 2012 financial recovery plan.
Because of its fiscal caution status, which went into effect May 17 as a result of unauditable books and negative balances in several departments, the township was given 60 days to create a cost-savings plan.
The 35 line-item document touched on several township departments, with the majority of the items centered on the fire department.
“If you’re going to have discussions of issues that are going to affect the fire department, the union would like to be a part of it,” said firefighter Kevin Spain, son of trustee chairman David Spain. “We have an opinion about every single one of these line items.”
The special meeting was called to help meet today’s deadline for shipping the plan to the state auditor’s office.
A heated discussion concerned the position of deputy fire chief.
“If we lay off the deputy fire chief, we’ll be saving $71,000,” David Spain said.
“With the current situation we’re in, I’m not in favor of doing this,” trustee Dan Fletcher responded.
When David Spain asked what situation he was referring to, Fletcher responded, “You already know — and I don’t feel like saying it in a public meeting.”
Fire Capt. Jeff Pate shouted to the trustees: “Why are we so far in the hole? Tell us why the fire department is so far in the hole. I’ll tell you why right now: The deputy fire chief’s position. It’s sucking all the money (out of the department).”
When called after the meeting, Deputy Fire Chief Chris Wolfgang declined to comment. His position was created six years ago.
“Do you know something I don’t know about why (Wolfgang) can’t be laid off?” David Spain demanded of Fletcher, who refused to consider the layoff.
Fletcher responded, “No.” He refused to elaborate.
Trustee Tom Craft proposed approving the plan, with an addendum that stated trustees could approve or disapprove any item at upcoming monthly meetings as needed.
David Spain voted yes. Fletcher voted no. The motion passed.
“If the auditor kicks this back and has a problem with it, we’ll worry about this then,” Craft said.
“I voted no because I don’t like everything on this list,” Fletcher said after the meeting. He pointed to two items calling for the reduction of part-time fire coverage to 12 hours per day and the elimination of part-time fire positions. “You’re jeopardizing the men on duty and the people of Madison Township.”
Fire Chief Chris Niswander said he walked away confused.
Some items, including one mandating unpaid furlough days for the chief, state implementation would be in the third quarter, already under way.
“I think there’s some good options in the overall plan, but everyone involved needs to come together to work out the details and do what’s best to move this township forward fiscally,” he said.