Greenwood continues modifying fire department policy

TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2017 — Under Board of Supervisor Chairman Dr. John Bassing’s leadership the Greenwood Town Board of Supervisors has spent a considerable amount of its time tuning the operations of the Greenwood Township Fire Department. The April 11 meeting of the board of supervisors did not prove to be different. Several issues, including pay rates for fire fighters, the fire department agreement with the Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade and log books were again discussed by the town board.

In June of 2015 the Greenwood Fire Department and the private Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade entered into a memo of understanding and the board of supervisors again discussed this agreement for mutual aid service. According to Chairman Bassing, Minnesota Association of Townships attorney Eric Hedtke recommends that Greenwood discontinue its association with the 501c3 non-profit Brigade because of the township’s tort liability cap. There are options which the township can explore to see if it can remain feasible to work with the Fire Brigade, according to Bassing. It was decided that the township would explore its options and consult with township attorney Mike Couri and continue discussion at its May meeting.

It was reported that paid on call guidelines were currently on the township attorney’s desk for his review. Pay rates for fire fighters and emergency medical technicians and first responders were again discussed and potentially resolved. Some years back the township initiated call-out pay for training, fire events and medical emergency calls. In 2016 the board of supervisors changed the rate to $15 for the first hour and $10 for subsequent hours and asked the fire department members to agree to be paid quarterly rather than the practice of annual payment. Minnesota state law requires that all employees be paid not less than monthly. This creates a conflict with the law and either the annual or quarterly payment policy.

Fire Chief Dave Fazio informed the board of supervisors that some personnel, mostly first responders, are “going backwards” under the new rates. Even though pay was extended to the second hour, and subsequent hours, many first responders are at service for one hour or less. In these situations, with the decrease in pay for the first hour, the added second hour pay was moot. According to Chief Fazio 13 firefighters/first responders qualified for pay in 2016. He reported that one department member would be paid the same under the new policy; seven would see increased pay and five would realize less pay. “If you only look at first responders you will find that they get paid less,” Chief Fazio said.

The board of supervisors discussed its pay options at length. It was ultimately determined that the fire department pay rates would now be set at $10 per hour for meetings and training and $20 for the first hour, and $10 for subsequent hours for all fire calls and medical emergency calls. The motion to approve this action was passed on a 4–1 vote, with Chairman Bassing providing the only dissent. “I’m just trying to keep us out of the frying pan,” Chairman Bassing said.

The town board also approved initiating a log book system, recording mileage or hours and other details for all fire department trucks and boats as well as the township truck. The new rules will become effective May 1. Supervisor Carmen DeLuca will report back to the town board in May on the implementation of the new rule.

Chief Fazio requested that the town board give its approval for three Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) applicants. Gilbert Hunter has applied, subject to receiving his certificate of training which he recently completed. The other applicants, for EMS positions are Rick Worringer and Mary Worringer who had served as EMTs in the past. A lengthy debate ensued amongst board members. Objections were voiced against and for allowing Mary Worringer to resume a position as an EMT on the department. Chairman Bassing and supervisor DeLuca voiced their opposition to her returning. Supervisor Larry Tahija said that volunteers were needed and that he appreciated Worringer’s service. “I don’t understand why we would reject an applicant who is certified,” Tahija maintained. “We need volunteers and I was glad to have her service when I needed it,” Tahija said.

Bassing and DeLuca were resolute in their opposition and Bassing even suggested that Worringer would need to  provide a public apology before he could consider her application. Ultimately the board voted on each applicant separately. The votes on Rick Worringer and Hunter were unanimous, however, Tahija’s motion to accept Mary Worringer’s application failed for a lack of a second.

The town board also discussed its concerns about approving payment for hours submitted by a fire department member for time spent taking a fire truck to Embarrass for service. It was decided that a town board representative would meet with the chief to discuss the issue.

Chairman Bassing also reported that he was concerned about worker’s compensation insurance issues when the fire department responds to any calls for assistance other than those generated by 911. He said that the fire department needs to develop a policy on how to handle such calls.

It was reported that the revolving septic loan fund currently has $97,000 on account, available to make septic improvement loans. There are no current loans extended. Retired township treasurer Delores Clark told the board that the final outstanding loan payment was received on December 16, 2016.

Chairman Bassing proposed that $40,000 be kept dedicated to septic system loans and that the balance, $57,000, become available for well drilling loans. His proposal was that the township loan up to one-half of the total cost of a well project with a cap of $15,000. The township would collect 2 percent interest on these loans and hold the real estate property as collateral. Bassing’s suggestion was approved with unanimous support of the board of supervisors.

In other action, the Greenwood Board of supervisors:

• Approved the minutes of the March 23 reorganization meeting of the Greenwood Township Board of Supervisors

• Approved the township treasurer’s report declaring a checking account balance of $383,569.71; long tern investments balance of $251,347.44, savings account balance of #254,922.29 for a total balance of $889,839.44

• Heard the presentation of claims and approved the payment of  April claims totaling in the amount of $6,903.80 and $1,219.72

• Acknowledged the receipt of $32,732.59 to the general fund and disbursement from the general fund of $145,572.12

• Acknowledged the receipt of $2,234.15 into the capital equipment fund and the purchase of investments totaling $2,234.15. The April 5 investment balance of the fund totals $27,773.64

• Unanimously approved the purchase of two pickleball nets at a cost of $249 each

• Approved issuing liquor licenses to Timbuktu Marina, The Vermilion Club, Gruben’s Marina, Shamrock Landing and Bay View Lodge

• Unanimously approved spending $50 to get started planning the township’s 40th anniversary celebration

• Determined that the board of supervisors would soon call a special meeting to discuss the proposed 50 pages of employee and personnel policies

• Learned that Supervisor Carmen DeLuca would create specifications for painting of town hall

• Heard a report from Supervisor DeLuca on the successful installation of the town hall and fire hall alarm system

• Will invite Cold Snap Technology, Eveleth, Minnesota, to make a presentation on providing the township with internet website development and maintenance

• Unanimously agreed to again contract with St. Louis County to provide fire protection for unorganized township 63-15, north of Greenwood Township, for $8,000

• Determined that the town board would not comment on upcoming St. Louis County land use applications made with the township

• Approved a $300 budget for the upcoming township clean up day to be held May 20

• On April 5, the fire department fund  ending balance was $141,037.17, the investment balance was $212,648.37 reflecting a total balance of $353,685.54 for the entire fund.