By Linda Dillman
Madison Township took a step toward building its new firehouse following a resolution approved by the trustees at their May 17 meeting.
The trustees voted 2-1 to approve a design-build agreement for new Station 183, to be built on Noe-Bixby Road north of Sedalia Drive. Trustees Ed Dildine and Victor Paini voted in favor and John Kershner opposed.
The resolution contained a revised guaranteed maximum construction cost not to exceed a little more than $3.7 million, but after a lengthy discussion, the amount was changed back to $3.5 million as listed in the contract document.
Before the vote was taken, Kershner questioned if his fellow trustees had read the contract.
“Yes, I have not read the entire contract,” said Dildine. “However, I put my trust in our administrator and chief and that’s why we hired them. After Victor and I looked at the contract and the resolution, we realized there was a difference in numbers and we corrected that.”
“I reviewed the contract, but cannot say that I read every single page,” said Paini. “In fact, I worked mostly from the shorter design summary during the final discussions. That said, Township Administrator Susan Brobst and Chief Bates, along with our Township Counsel Larry James and outside counsel at Bricker and Eckler wrote the contract in accordance with the ballot issue that passed and our continuing conversations over the ensuring two years. We stood firm on the finances maintaining the lower, agreed upon, contingency fee and I’m confident that this contract is fair and represents the wishes of the community and myself.”
Kershner said he does not feel it is right to enter into a contract of this size without reading it and understanding it fully.
“An example is that money was included in the contract to Turner to remove trees, shrubs, and signage that do not exist,” alleged Kershner. “I have concerns that between a full time administrator, a chief, and a $270,000 design team that they can’t get simple site conditions correctly.”
While the resolution was approved, the trustees are waiting for a subcontractor bid opening at the end of the month to approve final construction numbers. Once the bids are opened, the trustees expect to hold a special meeting in June to further discuss Station 183.
In addition, Fire Chief Robert Bates presented findings on a handful of questions discussed at a prior meeting regarding changes in window heights, piping, hardy plank siding and exposed metal siding.
Bates said aside from a $19,300 potential savings in a change in building facing, other changes were at no or little cost. Since the building is situated in a community setting—unlike other fire stations—Bates said the station as it is currently designed with hardy plank and wainscoting, is intended to fit in with the surrounding environment.
Bates said he and his staff did not recommend changing the siding, etc.
“We’re building it in a neighborhood instead of off on our own like stations 181 and 182,” said Bates. “We’re going to have more foot traffic there.”
However, Kershner was not convinced and questioned the durability of hardy plank and its upkeep.
“There are a whole lot of issues beyond the $19,000,” Kershner said. “I’m concerned about the long-term durability and costs.”
Kershner also asked why the township doesn’t temporarily put an emergency squad intended for the new station into service at Station 181, along with 181’s medic.
“Why does he want to run two medics out of 181?” said Dildine. “It’s not normal and in all my years in fire service, I’ve never seen it done. In order to do that, you would have to change the radios and hire additional manpower. We just hired new firefighters, but they were replacements for people that have left or retired.”
“I feel that’s a ridiculous statement,” said Kershner. “The chief said he was able to make it work and that he would figure it out. How can hiring staff for the EMS be an issue when we’re planning on hiring staff for Station 183 anyway?”
Company threatens to sue township
The threat of legal action by a Dallas law firm contending Madison Township’s transient vendor curfew is too restrictive forced township trustees to extend the curfew by three hours to 9 p.m.
A letter sent to Larry James, Madison Township’s legal advisor, contends that the firm’s client, Aptive Environmental, conducts their initial sales almost exclusively through door-to-door solicitation.
Calling the township’s 6 p.m. curfew unconstitutional, Aptive’s attorney Jeremy Fielding wrote the restriction places a direct and substantial impact on the company’s business viability and profits.
Citing Supreme Court and federal circuit court rulings invalidating municipal curfews before 9 p.m., Fielding said his firm has successfully challenged similar curfews in municipalities in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
“In each case, the city ultimately relented, agreeing to abandon or suspend the solicitation prohibition,” continued the attorney, who noted one case settlement resulted in a $125,000 judgement for his client.
“If Aptive is forced to litigate this matter with Madison Township, it will seek full recovery of the full extent of its damages, including its lost profits and attorney’s fees,” Fielding wrote, before giving the township 30 days to comply.
Madison Township Administrator Susan Brobst called the issue controversial and said she was not happy with the situation.
“We need to get our curfew time changed to be in line with the Supreme Court,” said Brobst, who told the trustees the Ohio Township Association is following legislation before the 132nd General Assembly clarifying township transient vendor registration laws and making adjustments to current law to reflect Supreme Court case rulings.
“We’ll follow this with the Ohio Township Association and hope there will be some compromise with the legislature,” Brobst said. “If we make it (the curfew) anything other than 9 p.m., we’ll be filed upon.”
Southeast Editor Rick Palsgrove contributed to this story.