Greenwood Town Board votes to end agreement with Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade

TUESDAY, MAY 9, 2017 — The Greenwood Town Board of Supervisors voted to end the relationship between the Greenwood Fire Department and the private, non-profit, Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade at the town board’s regular May 9 meeting. According to Greenwood Town Board Chairman Dr. John Bassing the town board has researched the insurance concerns which arise because of a letter of understanding between the two fire fighting organizations and, at this time, there is not a suitable option to continue the association. According to the Minnesota Association of Townships and the township’s attorney, Greenwood lost its 1.5 million insurance cap when it agreed to work with the Fire Brigade. Bassing sited the different levels of training requirements between the two organizations as one of the insurance concerns. One solution might be available to the township. If the Fire Brigade completes training it could be “folded into the Greenwood Fire Department as associates,” Bassing reported.

Supervisor Mike Ralston agreed, that legally, ending the relationship with the Fire Brigade was necessary. He said, however, “The Brigade is an asset to a whole lot of our constituents. I don’t think this issue has to be dead. I would like to continue to try and find a way we can work together.” The town board continued to discuss potential solutions which would allow the fire department and Fire Brigade to work together and mostly agreed that it would continue to seek a solution. “I have nothing against the Fire Brigade but we have already lost part of our insurance. We don’t want to lose anymore,” Supervisor Carmen DeLuca said. The motion to end the relationship was unanimously passed.

Chairman Bassing emphasized that the township fire department would need to discontinue any further joint training with the Fire Brigade and could only respond to calls for service dispatched by St. Louis County 911.

The Greenwood Board continued its work on its fire department Standard Operational Guidelines and Paid On Call Guidelines. Chairman Bassing reported that he undertook the task of rewriting the documents based upon the recommendations of Mike Couri, the township’s attorney. Supervisor DeLuca moved to send the documents to the fire department for its review with Bassing supporting his motion. Bassing said that he was ready to send the proposed documents to the lawyer for his approval but the rest of the board wanted to obtain input from the firefighters. DeLuca amended his motion to include forwarding the proposals to both the township attorney and the fire department for additional review. The motion passed 4-1, with Bassing voting against the motion.

Considerable discussion was afforded Fire Chief Dave Fazio’s request that the town board approve his recommendations for the Fire Department Administrative Assistant and Assistant Fire Chief. The board unanimously approved appointing Howard Ankrum to the administrative assistant position. Fazio’s request to appoint Donovan Strong to the position of assistant Fire Chief met with resistance from Bassing.

“Does he meet the requirements?” Bassing questioned. It was noted that Strong has completed the required training and DeLuca agreed that it looks like the requirements for the position have been met.

“We need to fill the position,” Supervisor Ralston said. “We could fill the position for the short term. Instead of micromanaging the department we should support them,” Ralston added. Supervisor DeLuca agreed and suggested that the town board could review the appointment in six months. Bassing was not satisfied. “I won’t accept something that does not fit with our job description,” Bassing said. The motion, however, passed with four votes in favor and Bassing providing the only dissent.

The town board discussed formalizing a liaison between the town board and fire department. Supervisor Ralston moved that the town board appoint himself and supervisor DeLuca to continue in that role, but with formal authorization from the board. The motion passed unanimously.

Supervisor Ralston suggested that the township consider checking to see if the township maintenance supervisor, currently on disability leave, could be utilized, on light duty, as the fire department administrative assistant. Chairman Bassing reported that a conference call was scheduled for June 29 to discuss issues related to the disability leave of absence. It was decided that the town board will investigate the possibility of placing the maintenance director on light duty. This motion passed 4-0 with Bassing voting against the motion.

In other action, the Greenwood Board of Supervisors:

• Approved contracting with ESC systems, Proctor, Minnesota, to provide monitoring services of the township’s new alarm systems.

• Approved the minutes of its April 11 regular meeting, approved the minutes of the April 18 special meeting and the minutes of the May 4 Board of Appeal and Equalization

• Tabled any action on the township’s employee personnel policy until the township’s June meeting

• Learned that one of the township’s new pickleball nets was installed, and that the second net would be put into use when demand required

• Reviewed the details of the township’s upcoming May 20 Garbash Day activities

• Listened to a report, from Chairman Bassing, on the Cook Hospital actions to incorporate Greenwood Township into its hospital district. “It is not moving forward (in the state legislature) this session, but we must watch closely next session,” Bassing cautioned

• Gave authorization to permit Pam Rodgers, Sue Drobac and Nancy Ralston to utilize online banking for internal transfers with Frandsen Bank

• Unanimously approved a budget of $2,000 to celebrate the township’s 40th anniversary later this summer

• Authorized Pam Rodgers to establish a township Facebook account

• Hired Cold Snap Technology to update the township’s website

• Learned that supervisor DeLuca will bring information to the town board, at its June meeting, on a proposal to paint the town hall

• Discussed plans to update the township’s Smokey Bear fire danger signs

• Approved paying $7,774.90 and $499.98 in claims against the township.