Van Buren Township trustee, fire department settle

VAN BUREN TWP. — The Van Buren Township Advisory Board has agreed to a monetary settlement with the Van Buren Volunteer Fire Department, ending a more than two-year-long legal battle between them.

But who will come when an emergency call is made could be a little less clear, as both Van Buren Fire and a new entity, Southern Brown Volunteer Fire Department Inc., are both making plans to serve township residents.

The Van Buren Township Advisory Board voted to settle with Van Buren Fire for $64,050 during an approximately 10-minute-long meeting this evening in Trustee Vicki Payne’s living room.

Both parties went to mediation on June 13 — which was their second formal attempt at a non-trial end to the dispute — and reached a conditional agreement. That’s what the township board voted to accept this evening.

The board released a statement which is posted below.

Payment of contract money, release of financial and other documents, and the adequacy of the fire department have all been issues of debate since Van Buren Fire sued the trustee and advisory board in April 2015.

“It was time to put this dispute behind everyone so that the taxpayers of Van Buren Township could move forward without the expense of further litigation,” Payne said in the press release.

“I firmly believe this will allow the township to establish new relationships for the provision of fire services.”

Further questions regarding who will serve on the new Southern Brown Volunteer Fire Department, how it will be funded, where it will be based and when its service would start were not answered this evening. The township board’s attorney, Peter King, said the situation is evolving and more information would be released to the newspaper as soon as possible.

Van Buren Fire Chief John Ward said he and his firefighters would continue responding, even without a contract or the prospect of getting one. The department has been existing on donations and fundraisers for more than two years; board members invited the public out to buy sandwiches on Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“This department has insurance, it has apparatus, and it has certified people,” Ward said.

“We’re not going to quit on our community.”

Read more in the July 12 Brown County Democrat.

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.