A fire protection contract expired Tuesday between the Morenci Fire Department and Medina Township, but that doesn’t mean fire trucks won’t respond if a call comes in.
“I want to be clear that there’s still going to be fire protection regardless,” said township supervisor Jim Craig. “I talked with [fire chief] Chad Schisler and if the need is there, they’ll respond.”
The thing Craig can’t be clear about is how negotiations between Morenci and Medina are going to turn out.
Morenci Fire Department is seeking a 10 percent increase in the cost of fire services—an annual increase of $1,946—the first rate increase since 2003.
The township board countered that offer by suggesting that if there’s a 10 percent increase, then the township should be allowed to bill insurance companies for fire calls and apply those payments to the city’s fees.
Council debated the request at the June 8 meeting, but in the end declined to alter the contract.
This prompted Medina officials to contact the Hudson Fire Department to see if there was interest in increasing their coverage to about half of the township, since that department’s charge is less than Morenci’s.
Craig estimates Hudson’s current coverage at about a third of the township. Morenci and Waldron fill in the remainder of the coverage area.
“The only way that we would ask Hudson to cover the entire township is if the City of Morenci is unwilling to negotiate,” Craig said. “We don’t want to end our relationship with Morenci. We just want them to negotiate with us.”
Craig said the township should be allowed to bill insurance companies for calls.
“That should be our decision, not theirs,” he said.
Craig said an addendum to the contract was added in 2004 that gave the city the right to keep insurance payments in lieu of increasing the contract rate.
Morenci administrator/city clerk Renée Schroeder said insurance payments came in for one Medina Township call in 2008 totaling $691 and from three in 2007 totaling $2,252.
Craig is hoping for some flexibility from city council and a rapid resolution of the issue.
Craig expects the expansion in coverage by Hudson to include ambulance service, also, rather than sending fire vehicles from one city and rescue from another.
With the Medina Township fire contract due to expire at midnight June 30, Morenci city council met in a special 7:30 a.m. session Tuesday to discuss the issue.
The following motion was accepted 4-0, with Greg Braun, Jason Cook and Art Erbskorn unable to attend. Pennington moved and Schell seconded that the City of Morenci will continue to provide fire protection service and operate month-to-month if Medina Township pays monthly based on the current proposed contract while the township checks their options and the city checks their legal and moral obligations under state laws and mutual aid agreements. Payments due on the 15th of each month in the amount of $1,783.83, first payment being due July 15, 2009. All votes yea, motion carried.