2018-05-16 / Front Page

Board dissolves Mayfield Twp. Fire Dept.

Resident plans to continue recall
BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Mayfield Township resident Maurice Freed held up a recent issue of The County Press that contained a story about efforts to recall Supervisor Dianna Ireland. He said it was the reason he attended Monday’s meeting and read a lengthy letter into the record, calling for the board to dissolve the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Mayfield Township resident Maurice Freed held up a recent issue of The County Press that contained a story about efforts to recall Supervisor Dianna Ireland. He said it was the reason he attended Monday’s meeting and read a lengthy letter into the record, calling for the board to dissolve the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. Photos by Andrew Dietderich MAYFIELD TWP. — The Mayfield Township Board of Trustees dissolved the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. Monday, citing various reasons, including a need “to listen to what people are telling us.”

The board voted 5-0 to dissolve the department and eliminate the position of acting fire chief/consultant. Via two separate resolutions, the board voted Jan. 8 to form the department and appoint the acting fire chief/consultant, Tom Mitchell.

Board members continued to assert the need to explore the possibility of Mayfield Township forming its own fire department. They came to a consensus agreement to form an advisory committee.


Mayfield Township Supervisor Dianna Ireland said she believes she “did every effort that I thought that I could do for the public” with regard to the now-dissolved Mayfield Township Fire Dept. Mayfield Township Supervisor Dianna Ireland said she believes she “did every effort that I thought that I could do for the public” with regard to the now-dissolved Mayfield Township Fire Dept. Officials also stressed that Mayfield Township forming a fire department isn’t a new idea, though admitted the most recent efforts “probably” could have been presented differently.

“We, as a board, need to listen to what people are telling us,” said Dan Engelman, trustee, Mayfield Township. “At this time, I think it would be appropriate that we dissolve the fire department and terminate the position of (acting) fire chief.”

Township officials have continually faced questions — including at Monday’s meeting — since forming the department, and holding two public forums on Jan. 31 and Feb. 8.


With regard to the now-dissolved township fire department Trustee Beth Potter- Knowlton said, “The implication that we’ve done something, you know, inappropriate or not in a transparent manner is not factual, from the meetings that I’ve participated in.” With regard to the now-dissolved township fire department Trustee Beth Potter- Knowlton said, “The implication that we’ve done something, you know, inappropriate or not in a transparent manner is not factual, from the meetings that I’ve participated in.” Frustrations have been exasperated by what some residents have called a lack of answers with regard to key questions, such as how the department might be funded.

During public time at the beginning of Monday’s meeting, resident Maurice Freed read a letter into the record calling on the board to “rescind or otherwise reverse” the Jan. 8 fire department resolutions.

“Your fiduciary relationship has been breached in several capacities which has required citizens to pursue alternative remedies which has presently caused the recall petition for Supervisor Dianna Ireland,” Freed read. “No concrete facts and/or financial figures were disclosed for this project except to state that generally it would cost each landowner the average of approximately $160. The board did not carefully consider this issue.”

Last Thursday, the Lapeer County Election Commission approved proposed petition language clearing the way for Joy Boots — the one spearheading the recall effort — to soon begin collecting enough signatures to get the recall on the November ballot. Boots said those efforts will continue, citing what she termed a “temporary stay” on a township-owned fire department as “not acceptable” (see above story).

“I believe that the township needs to proceed in a manner to establish a fire department or some alternative, to what we’re currently utilizing,” said Trustee Beth Potter- Knowlton, noting she’s been on the board for 12 years and “every budget workshop we’ve talked about it.”

Currently, Mayfield Township is serviced by Lapeer Fire & Rescue per a four-year deal that went into effect Oct. 1, 2017. The first year of the deal is costing Mayfield Township $185,000 with 2 percent annual increases. Mayfield officials have said they plan to honor the agreement.

The contract was approved at the eleventh hour, on Sept. 11.

Mayfield officials have taken issue with a letter sent by Lapeer Fire & Rescue Chief Terry Kluge around that time.

Ireland has said publicly that the communication “told us that if we did not sign by a certain date that they would beginning notifying central dispatch, adjoining fire departments, and the public that they may no longer be servicing or responding to any fire-related incidents in Mayfield Township effective at midnight, Oct. 1.”

She said city officials indicated the cost of the first year of the contract would be more than $204,000, if they waited to sign it beyond the expiration of the previous agreement.

Engelman said Monday, however, that the communication had nothing to do with formation of the fire department.

“I know it was stated I had a personality issue with the (Lapeer Fire & Rescue) fire chief,” he said. “I take offense to that because it’s absolutely not true.”

He also said it was “absolutely not true” that any kind of issue with Kluge “started this.”

“However, looking beside that, I’m not in this for myself,” Engelman said. “I take this position for the people of this township therefore I support dissolving the fire department” and eliminating the acting fire chief/ consultant position.

Board members also rallied against any implication that they did something inappropriate.

“Could it have been presented differently? Probably,” Potter- Knowlton said.

As The County Press has reported, the recent effort to form a fire department was prompted when someone presented an “opportunity” in July.

Based on a “newsletter” recently sent to Mayfield Township residents with their assessments, the “opportunity” was in form of “a township resident (who) reached out to the township and asked to speak with us on the subject (of a township fire department).”

Emails obtained by The County Press through Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) revealed that person was Tom Mitchell — a Mayfield Township resident and member of the Deerfield Township Fire Dept.

Based on a response to a FOIA request, there were no emails or text messages sent between Mitchell and any board members in the time between Mitchell’s initial contact and the scheduling of special meetings specific to the topic of a township-owned fire department in November and December.

Further, it was discovered via FOIA that the only notice of the special meetings to discuss the new fire department was via postcards posted at the township hall (meaning a person would have had to physically go there to be aware of the special meeting).

“The implication that we’ve done something, you know, inappropriate or not in a transparent manner is not factual, from the meetings that I’ve participated in,” Potter- Knowlton said.

Potter-Knowlton said she could back rescinding the motion to form the fire department, “but we have to keep pursuing an alternative…or we have to keep reviewing it to see what the best option is.”

Additionally, she noted tasks such as feasibility studies are things “we may need to do.”

Engelman said, going forward, any efforts to form a fire department would be done “in a manner that is understanding to the citizens.”

“That’s what we’re here for…the best interests of the citizens of this township,” Engelman said.

Ireland said she agreed with Engelman and Potter- Knowlton.

“Did it get a little sideways? Yes,” she said. “But I believe I did every effort that I thought that I could do for the public. If we were trying to hide something we wouldn’t have had two public forums at all.”

She suggested forming an advisory committee with potentially up to 10 people to explore options for future fire services in Mayfield Township.

“I would ask that the public let me know of their interest in being on the advisory committee and what they think they could add to the committee, a little bit of what their background is,” Ireland said.

According to the board, the committee will be formed sometime over the course of the next two months.

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