Sparks continue to fly when it comes to the Sylvania Township fire department, and the most recent flare-up centered on a certificate of appreciation for the fire chief.
A request by firefighters to present the certificate to Chief Christopher Maurer during a township trustees meeting was denied by DeeDee Liedel, chairman of the trustees. Mr. Maurer has retired, effective yesterday.
During the trustees' meeting last week, Firefighter Jeff Bennett asked Mrs. Liedel if she had reconsidered her decision, but she said no. Mrs. Liedel said it would be more appropriate if the union presented it during a union meeting.
However, Trustee Carol Contrada disagreed, saying, "it's entirely appropriate to say thank you to the fire chief," noting that anybody, including the union, can thank the chief. Mrs. Contrada, who said that she wasn't aware that the firefighters' request had been turned down, added, "I resent not having the opportunity to let them make that presentation."
Mrs. Liedel defended her position, saying trustees already honored the fire chief - trustees issued a proclamation recognizing Mr. Maurer's 30 years of dedicated service - and she said it wasn't unreasonable to limit the meetings to township business.
Friction on the board has surfaced at recent meetings during discussions about the fire department's finances. In December, trustees voted 2-1 to eliminate the fire department's emergency transport service and to reduce staffing by five firefighters to offset a deficit. Mrs. Contrada was the lone dissenter.
Mrs. Liedel, who has criticized the union for its unwillingness to renegotiate its contract to reduce the fire department's operating costs, said it's unfortunate that instead of working with township officials, the firefighters' union is constantly attempting to antagonize the situation instead of dealing with it.
In response, Mrs. Contrada told Mrs. Liedel that "if you want to have an argument with the union go ahead and have an argument with the union, but don't do it because they want to acknowledge the fire chief."
Mr. Bennett said it would have been appropriate to present the chief with the certificate of appreciation during the trustees' meeting because the firefighters union "is very much an active member of this community." He later said he thinks that Mrs. Liedel made the decision without consulting either of the other two trustees.
Firefighters thanked the chief for setting high standards.
"Until recent developments, the Sylvania Township fire department was the model for all other departments in Lucas County," Mr. Bennett said during the public comment portion of the trustees meeting.
"The firefighters also feel proud to work for a department that is so well respected, not only by fire chiefs, but by other firefighters and paramedics. A department that you managed so well," he told the chief. "We also want to thank you for working with Local 2243 to resolve labor/ management issues. We did not always agree, but we have always shown respect toward each other."
No timetable has been set to replace Mr. Maurer, who was the township's fire chief for nine years.
Under a settlement agreement, the township will pay Mr. Maurer $64,057 as compensation for the remainder of his employment agreement that ends in December, and pay him $43,778 for accrued sick leave.
In his retirement letter, Chief Maurer said it has been his honor and privilege to serve township residents and to serve with the dedicated firefighters.