Attorney says New Marion VFD is not compliant
After looking into a situation at the New Marion Volunteer Fire Department, Attorney John Ertel could not advise Shelby Township Trustee Vickie Taylor to sign a contract for fire protection with them.
A letter was sent to each of the Shelby Township Trustees – Cheryl Welch, John Meisberger, and Marilyn Hance – as well as the New Marion VFD from Ertel giving a synopsis of his assessment.
First, the letter stated that the New Marion VFD is not a valid not-for-profit domestic corporation at this time. “I presume that many of the members of said department would or could bear personal liability rather than the department itself. Accordingly, before any contract could be entered into with the New Marion Volunteer Fire Department, each and every member who serves on said Fire Department would have to be willing to sign a contract to be personally liable,” the letter read. This is because the corporation for the fire department was administratively dissolved on March 9, 2010.
The second concern is the level of certification and training that the members of the fire department have taken. “Pursuant to Indiana Code 36-8-10.5-6(b) a volunteer firefighter must successfully complete minimum basic training requirements established by this (code) before he may perform the emergency response duties of a volunteer firefighter,” the letter stated. This is a certification by the Education Board in relation to fire safety and training.
Attorney Ertel noted that a list of names and addresses of each and every firefighter on New Marion’s department and their certification of training would have to be provided before a contract for protective services could be entered. He also noted that the turn-out gear for the department has to be up to date. “It is my understanding the current turn out gear is out of date and has been for over ten (10) years,” Ertel wrote.
The trustee has not received any paperwork to support that investigations and/or reports have been submitted to the Department of Homeland Security. “Pursuant to Indiana Code 36-8-17-7 the fire department is required to report a statement of facts relating to the cause and origin of a fire, the extent of the damage caused by the fire, the amount of insurance on the property effected by the fire, and any other information required in the Commission’s rules.” Attorney Ertel said it is unknown if those reports have been filed since they haven’t been turned over to the trustee.
The structure of how public meetings should be conducted was also outlined in the letter, noting they would be open to the public.
As John Meisberger is a member of the Shelby Township Board and member of the New Marion VFD, the attorney felt he should not vote on matters concerning the fire department. “This would be best practiced to avoid the appearance of any conflicts or impropriety,” the letter read.
The letter was dated January 25, 2023, giving the fire department time to respond within 30 days from that date. As of February 25, 2023, the trustee had not heard from the fire department nor seen any documents as was requested.
“It is necessary that the New Marion Volunteer Fire Department be reinstated as a not-for-profit corporation, obtain the respective quotes for the insurance, required by law, that said volunteer fire department carry to be reimbursed by the township; and that the history of fire reports to the Department of Homeland Security or formerly the Indiana State Fire Marshall’s Office be submitted. Also, the expenditures regarding reimbursements for the use of personal vehicles and clothing allowance should be submitted to the Trustee for review in order to determine what would be the appropriate contract payment, and whether this can happen because of compliance with training, reporting and proper expenditures of the money.”
Taylor told the attorney she would like to also see the fire department have internet access, phone access, a proposed budget of expenses on an annual basis, along with donations and/or fundraising ventures on the part of the department. She will need a financial report and proof of insurance along with receipts for money spent.
Attorney Ertel noted that if the department does not address the situation within the 30 days, he would advise the Trustee to obtain Fire Protection Services with another department who can service the area.
When asked about the compliance, Taylor told the Osgood Journal she has not had cooperation from the fire department.
When the Osgood Journal contacted Charles Meisberger, Chief of the New Marion VFD, he said he couldn’t talk with the newspaper. When his attorney’s office was contacted, they said they would get back, but after waiting over a week, there was no response from them either.
Editor’s Note: The lack of response from the fire department and his attorney is frustrating as the paper strives to present both sides of the story. The newspaper has always been pro-emergency services and thanks all the volunteer firefighters for the tremendous job they do.