Mayor stands firm on fire contract
HEBRON – Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason drew a line in the sand, telling Union Township Trustees that their request for 60 percent of EMS billing revenue is “unacceptable.” Negotiations continued April between Hebron officials and trustees over a 2010 fire contract; the township contracts with the village for fire and EMS service. The main sticking point is the EMS billing revenue – village officials believe the revenue should stay in a single account and be used toward capital improvements. Trustees argue that since they pay 60 percent of the department’s expenses, they should receive 60 percent of the billing revenue. Trustees want to use the 60 percent share to offset what they owe to Hebron.
“We’re giving you that money to pay us back,” said Mason, adding that it seems awkward for the township to pay Hebron with money Hebron provided to the township.
Trustee president John Slater said there was never an agreement requiring the revenue to be used for capital improvements. “We’d like to use it toward service,” he said. Mason said neither he nor several council members would agree to the 60 percent figure.
“That’s unfortunate,” said Slater.
“Sixty percent of total EMS billing is not acceptable,” said Mason.
Slater said trustees wouldn’t sign a contract, and then work out EMS details later, like they did last year.
After both village and township officials entered into private discussions, Slater said, “We need to do some homework,” and the meeting was concluded.
“I’m not convinced we made any progress,” said Mason Wednesday. He said he would’ve hoped at least to agree to the township paying 60 percent of the operational expenses. As far as Mason’s concerned, “We’re not ready to budge” on negotiations, he said.
Mason questioned Slater’s comment in another newspaper that creating a joint fire district, which Mason recommends, may place an “unfair burden” on the township. Mason said the village has fewer residences than the township, a lower property valuation, and higher fire/EMS taxes, yet the entities share the same personnel and equipment.
Slater commented previously that he was concerned a fire district would significantly raise tax millage for township residents. Creating a district but keeping the millage levels in line with existing millage may be possible.
Mason said he hopes trustees don’t play “hardball” with the current negotiations. “Nobody wins when we play hardball,” he said.
Slater said Wednesday that he finds the current status of negotiations frustrating. “I don’t think (Mason) was very receptive to our proposal,” he said. Slater said he’s still willing to work with the situations, but he needs a better understanding of why the village objects to the township receiving 60 percent of the EMS revenue when the township is paying 60 percent of the department’s expenses. He said he feels as though the village is turning down the proposal without fully explaining its reasons. Slater said if village officials can tell him why he’s wrong, he’s willing to listen, “But don’t just say no.”
Slater said he’s willing to have an independent mediator join negotiations, but the mediator must be someone who has expertise in contract negotiations and has done his or her homework. He said someone who isn’t willing to directly interact with both parties in the same room “could do more harm than good.” A mediator must provide input to the negotiations and not merely travel back and forth between separated parties, telling what the other said.
The next contract negotiation meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 22, 6 p.m., at the Hebron Municipal Complex.