Letter: The Van Buren VFD issue revisited

To the editor:

This letter is to clarify some of the issues between the Van Buren trustee and the Van Buren Volunteer Fire Department.

The current trustee’s problems with the VBVFD arose with financial statements. The trustee is held responsible by the State Board of Accounts to give detailed accountability of monies spent. The VBVFD refused to give full financial disclosure as their contract with the trustee required. The trustee’s books are reviewed by the State Board of Accounts; therefore, as all contracts between trustees and fire departments, full financial reporting as well as a current roster are required. Neither was forthcoming from VBVFD in the last several years. The trustee had no option but to withhold monies.

In retaliation, the VFD hired an attorney and sued the trustee. After considerable expense to both sides, all met in court-ordered mediation. In the mediation it was mutually agreed upon to terminate the contract. This is stated in the document filed in the Brown County Circuit Court, Case No: 07C01-1504-PL-000149, paragraph 2. The amount of the cash settlement was negotiated and the trustee and the township advisory board agreed to this; therefore, the contract was terminated per the VFD’s request.

VBVFD, at a recent public meeting, disclosed that it has one active firefighter; all others are “inactive reserve.” Previously, it was discovered that some people listed on the active roster no longer resided in Brown County.

VBVFD representatives have stated that “we still have the state park contract.” There is not a contract with the park. In an emergency, the park calls 911 and the dispatcher sends out the contracted VFD that is closest in proximity to the emergency. This is verified by a signed statement from the park representative on file at the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.

Due to it finally being disclosed that VBVFD does not have a BLS (basic life support certification), they are no longer toned out by the sheriff’s department. A contract signed with the previous trustee (over eight years ago) required VBVFD to obtain the BLS. The current fire chief was also fire chief at that time. Expecting the VFD to honor the state requirement for inspection and certification, the trustees have assumed the proper certification had been obtained. VBVFD has never acquired the BLS. (Information available at the EMA director’s office in Brown County.) Lacking certification makes VBVFD ineligible to respond to any calls that may be medical, which includes vehicle accidents. VBVFD is no longer “toned out” by the sheriff’s department.

The OCRA grant to construct the fire station required a viable fire department to occupy, provide services and be contracted by local authorities. Van Buren Volunteer Fire Department, with one fireman and no BLS, and termination of the contract, can in no way be considered a viable fire department.

The township trustee is to provide fire protection and VBVFD was not fulfilling that obligation.

The trustee’s commitment to providing “fire protection” to the township resulted in many concerned and informed citizens doing the incredibly complex job of starting a new fire department. Input from other VFDs that care about fire protection and support from residents in joining the effort has established one of the finest VFDs in Brown County.

Southern Brown VFD has professional firefighters on the roster, several EMTs, equipment, BLS certification and many experienced volunteers; all they need is community support and a fire station.

Since obtaining their BLS certificate, they have responded to 100 percent of their “tones” with several responders. In February, there were 11 responders from Southern Brown answering a call for a 7-acre field fire.

It is time to stop with the false accusations, realize that VBVFD is not a fire department, and give credit to the trustee and the advisory board for honestly resolving a very serious problem in our township.


Mercy Phillips, Nashville

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