Fire / EMS Services in Jeopardy

ABC 6 ON YOUR SIDE: November 7, 2023: Norwich and Brown townships in contract limbo over fire and EMS services
On November 3rd, the Brown Township Board of Trustees discussed its ongoing efforts to negotiate a new contract with Norwich Township for provision of fire protection and emergency medical services (EMS). Norwich Township currently provides fire and EMS coverage to Brown Township under a 1998 agreement that has been renewed several times over the years. While the current contract should automatically renew, Brown Township worries Norwich Township will give notice, at the beginning of 2024, that it is terminating the contract at the end of 2024 and ending this twenty-six-year relationship.
In 2022, during discussions involving an expansion to the Brown Township Fire Station, Brown Township called Norwich Township’s attention to certain contract provisions that Norwich, once it was aware of these provisions, believed were unfair. At the beginning of this year, Brown Township started working on a new contract to meet Norwich Township’s objectives.
Over the last ten months, multiple revisions of a new contract were presented to Norwich Township as Brown Township believed the Townships were coming closer together on issues related to the management of the Brown Fire Station. This summer, the chairpersons, fiscal officers, and legal representatives of both townships met to discuss various contact terms. Brown Township left the meeting believing a clear path to a new agreement had been forged.
Since then, Brown Township attempted several times to finalize the agreement, but, to its surprise, was met with increasingly belligerent responses from the Norwich Trustees. On more than one occasion, Norwich Township Board Chairperson Chuck Buck falsely accused Brown Township Chairperson Joe Martin of negotiating in bad faith. In September, a member of the Norwich Board conveyed a list of four “deal killers” in the ninth version of the proposed contract. Brown responded with version ten, addressing these issues, along with a memo explaining its response in detail. On October 25, 2023, Norwich Chairperson Chuck Buck responded by saying that his Board had not discussed version 10, but that he knew all three board members were displeased with the version and that Norwich Township was ending negotiations. Instead, Mr. Buck recommended Brown Township consider a completely new contract with drastically different provisions, including the closing the Brown Township Fire Station on Walker Rd.
During its November 3rd meeting, the Brown Township Trustees discussed how frustrated they had become with trying to work with the Norwich Board of Trustees. Beyond the fact that Norwich Township continues “moving the goalposts” as discussions proceeded, the Brown Township Trustees expressed bewilderment at the hostility which was reflected in statements made at Norwich Township Trustee meetings. Board Chairperson Martin said, “We began this process as neighbors eager to continue a longstanding partnership to provide residents with fire and EMS service, now we feel like political targets. I am simply at a loss for words.”
The Brown Township Trustees fear the future of its partnership with Norwich Township is more uncertain than ever. Given this unfortunate situation, Brown Township must explore a range of options regarding fire and EMS protection for its residents, including new partnerships.
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