East Wayne Fire District and Sugar Creek Township have reached a settlement, marking an end to several years of litigation surrounding a contract dispute.
“This has been a longstanding community divide that – when viewed in hindsight – will be remembered as a community overcoming its differences to create a stronger fire and EMS protection now and into the future,” said EWFD Board President Blake Nussbaum.
Tom Gregory, vice president of the township’s Board of Trustees, said both boards have mutually agreed to terminate the 2015 five-year EMS contract. They also agreed to end the ongoing litigation by signing a settlement outlining moneys owed and releasing each other from prior claims.
“As of this evening, (March 19), we now have one-year contacts for fire and EMS service in place for all of 2020 with East Wayne Fire District, and Orrville Fire Department, in addition to the already executed one-year contract with Kidron Volunteer Fire Department,” Gregory said.
He said the fire contracts maintain the longstanding territories served by each department, which residents are accustomed to.
“All parties are excited and optimistic to move forward and provide the best level of public safety no matter where you live in eastern Wayne County,” Nussbaum said.
Nussbaum has formed a Community Strategic Vision Committee composed of community leaders and residents from throughout eastern Wayne County, which will be meeting regularly about a variety of topics, and welcomes feedback from residents.
“Let’s bask in the glory of settling this for a day – the next step is to have a citizen-led solution for fire and EMS funding,” Nussbaum said.
Sugar Creek Township Board President Jonathan Hofstetter said they would like to keep the positive momentum going as they continue to work toward long-term stability.
“This closes a chapter in Sugar Creek Township history and begins a new chapter that focuses on entities working together to provide improved services to our residents,” Hofstetter said.
“I’m very happy our boards finally agreed to an equitable resolution of these issues and are moving forward together,” Scott Widmer, Sugar Creek Township board of trustees member, wrote in an email.
“The chief concern for the last 10 years has been the diminished staffing resources for consistent response from the fire station in Dalton. I hope the District can now focus on solving this, their biggest issue, now that this litigation sideshow is resolved.
“Township residents approved a levy that provided more funding to East Wayne than ever before, but that levy is now finished, and the Township Board is working on the next levy,” Widmer continued. “This will just be considered for approval by Township residents that live outside the District. This is my main focus for 2020. I’m hoping, with a smaller scope just within the village limits, the District can now succeed at passing an equitable levy that addresses the staffing concern and that, together, the District and Township levies act to fund improvements in the response patterns.”