Center Rural Fire Department asks Norwood for increase in price for fire coverage

At Monday’s meeting of the Norwood Town Council, the topic of a new contract with a higher yearly rate for fire coverage from Center Rural Fire Department was discussed.

Norwood Town Administrator Scott Howard said the current contract lasts until 2027 for the town to receive fire coverage from Center Rural. He said the fire department approached the council about changing the contract.

Mayor Linda Campbell said there has been “so much development” around town, including the Edgewater and Eagle Point developments, that CRFD is “serving a bigger area.”

CRFD aproached the board to meet with the council, Campbell said, asking for an increase from $76,875 to $150,000. She said CRFD needed money for a new truck and to outfit the satellite station.

Campbell said the number was decreased “after much negotiation,” saying the new cost would be $115,000. However, she later corrected herself to say the number would increase to $136,500.

“They actually want the additional amount for this year, and we tried to negotiate that this would start the next budget year but to no avail,” Campbell said.

According to a draft of the contact, the town will pay $76,875 this year and defer part of the increased costs, listed at $53,125, to July 2023. At that time, the board will also owe the next year’s payment of $136,500, so the town will owe CRFD $213,375.

The draft also states the costs for fire protection, rescue and first responder services will increase to $143,325 in 2024 and to $150,492 in 2025.

Renewal of the contract would happen in four years potentially.

Councilman Keith Almond asked if CRFD could break the contract.  Attorney Jim Phillips said he believed it had a provision which would allow adjustments for professional circumstances.

Section 5 of the contract states: “In the event unforeseen circumstances arise that materially affect the costs and circumstances of providing the services specified in paragraph two (2) of this Contract, the parties agree to negotiate with each other and communicate in good faith so that the public safety of the citizens of Norwood is promoted, maintained and enhanced.”

“I am a big believer in doing things on the fiscal year,” said Phillips, meaning from July 1 to June 30. “That is not a legal thought, but more from a practical, municipal point of a view. I don’t like surprises because hopefully we are working on a balanced budget.”

He said he needed to review the contract.

“For some reason, there needs to be an adjustment and I want to know what the reason is.”

Mayor pro-tem James Lilly said he did not mind giving money to the fire department, but did not want to vote without the attorney looking over it.

Almond agreed with Lilly, saying Phillips may not have seen the final contract. He said he wanted to know if they were doing the proper procedure for the contract.

“I don’t feel like (CRFD) have got to have the money this minute,” Almond said.

Campbell noted Section 18, which said both the town and CRFD may amend or modify the contract from time to time “provided such amendments or modifications are in writing and signed by the parties hereto.”

She said both parties must agree to changes in a mutual agreement.

Campbell said she and Councilman Robbie Cohen, in a meeting with CRFD, learned the department needed more money to have full-time firefighters, but later in negotiations found they may need more money for a new truck.

According to the current contract, CRFD would receive $78,750 each year from July 2024 through July 2027 “provided the agreement remains in effect” with an asterisk on those amounts.

In both contracts, the town would have to pay $75,000 to CRFD if a contract was terminated by the town for a reason other than cause or mutual agreement.

Approval of the new contract was tabled to the January 2023 meeting.