Letter: Firefighters need monetary, community support

To the editor:

Our wonderful Van Buren Township Volunteer Fire Department in southern Brown County protects our families, our homes and property, our school, our churches and our local businesses in Van Buren Township as well as assisting other fire departments in other townships in Brown County as needed. Did you know that no one is paid? Their work is all as volunteers!

This not-for-profit organization is supposed to operate partially from taxpayer funds received from a contract with the Van Buren Township trustee for expenses such as insurance and stipends for firefighters for gas and clothing, etc., and from organizational fundraisers, such as chicken and fish dinners, held at the fire station house as well as a roadside boot drive. These caring people all work very hard and do a great job protecting us, our families and our properties when things go wrong and we have an emergency. I commend each person who volunteers to fight our fires, helps provide medical assistance and transportation and all who work on the board to keep things running smoothly. This is a huge time commitment taking time away from their families and sometimes their jobs.

The fire department and we have one huge problem! Our elected Van Buren Township Trustee, Vicki Payne, has not made the contract payments to this organization for over two years! This results in our courageous volunteer firefighters (who risk their lives at fires and care for their neighbors with medical emergencies) using their own money to suit up and travel to fire calls, emergency medical calls, etc. These selfless volunteers have come to my home to care for me many times including last May when I had pneumonia and was having a heart attack. They saved my life!

The unpaid funds from the trustee mean that the unpaid volunteer board members must work extra hard to raise additional funds, in additional to their normal responsibilities, which adds extra work and stress to all involved. They also had to file a lawsuit against our township trustee in an effort to collect the contract funds she has neglected to pay them for the past years.

Most volunteer fire departments have annual or biannual fundraisers, but our fire department has had to hold monthly fundraisers, and, recently, they have had to have weekly fundraisers — weekly! If they are not successful, our homes, families, properties and businesses are all at risk.

This is not fair to these volunteers and it is not fair to our township residents and all Brown County taxpayers whose tax dollars are being used by the trustee to pay her legal fees totaling well over $20,000 as of the end of 2015, and this does not include her legal fees for this year!

Decades ago, I helped start our fire department by contributing fundraising, publicity and by hosting fundraising events along with countless other dedicated neighbors who donated their time, skills and even land for our first fire station. We worked hard, made new friends in the process and built a good, solid volunteer fire department with the help of taxpayer money which came from our township trustee.

I personally find this lack of support and follow-through by our current elected township trustee outlandish and immoral. I do not think this is fair to the residents of Van Buren Township and especially to the volunteers of the fire department, firefighters and board members and all Brown County taxpayers.

The next court hearing regarding this case is Nov. 2 at the Brown County Courthouse. Please attend this hearing to show your support for our fire department and please contribute what you can to help our fire department succeed to continue protecting our local lovely Van Buren Township.

The department needs to raise $8,000 to operate for the next six months for liability insurance, utilities, fuel, etc. I think the fire department will be successful with the lawsuit, but now the department needs our support until the legal issues are settled.

I thank all of my neighbor volunteers who are working for all of us every day (and often nights, too) to keep our fire department and fabulous new station house up and running. Congratulations for a job well done and for being such caring neighbors!

Please, Mrs. Payne, do your job and make the allocated contract payments to the fire department immediately!

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for considering this urgent matter. We are all depending on you and counting on you help us in Van Buren Township. I invite and encourage my neighbors who have been helped by our fire department to also write a letter to the editor and/or post your comments on the “Van Buren Township Volunteer Fire Department Supporters” Facebook page.

Your neighbor,

Susan W. Showalter, Brown County

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