The City of Powell on Friday sent a cease and desist letter to the Liberty Township Board of Trustees that stated the township would be in violation of a cooperative agreement if it replaced the township’s emergency medical services (EMS) with Delaware County’s EMS.
“Pursuant to Article 8, Section 4 of the Liberty Township — City of Powell Cooperative Economic Development Agreement (CEDA), dated May 1, 2002, this letter shall serve as a notice of potential breach and default by Liberty Township of the terms of the CEDA,” states the letter from Powell’s legal counsel.
Powell Mayor Jon Bennehoof said the agreement was “conceived about 18 years ago” and established the “better part of 16 years ago.”
“It gives clear guidance to some of the things that the township and Powell cooperate on,” he said. “We sent them a letter of a potential breach of the CEDA.”
The CEDA states it is the responsibility of the township to provide fire and EMS services to Powell and the township.
“Clearly, Liberty Township continuing to provide fire and EMS services was a material inducement to the City to enter into the CEDA,” states the letter from the city’s legal counsel. “The Township provides no other significant services to taxpayers of the City.”
The letter also issues a “word of caution” to the trustees and the Delaware County Board of Commissioners, and it “urges” further research into handing control over of the township’s EMS to the county.
“The city would respectfully urge the township and county to research whether any of the funds produced by that levy in 2019 and future years could be used to fund anything other than township fire department expenses,” the letter states. “As a matter of fact, conversation occurred amongst the trustees as to whether to transition to a county EMS management at that time, and the public was told that passage of that levy would mean that the township would maintain its own EMS service. Regardless, any funds from that levy or previous similar levies, or the transfer of equipment or other property paid for by the proceeds of those levies, may be of questionable legality.”
The trustees unanimously approved the resolution declaring the necessity for a 5-year, 5.6-mill renewal levy for the Liberty Township Fire Department during a June 2017 meeting, and voters passed the levy. Collection will begin in 2019.
In the closing of the letter, the City of Powell demands that the township and county avoid defaulting the CEDA agreement.
“Based on the foregoing, the Township’s pursuing the transfer of EMS services to the county amounts to a potential default and breach of the CEDA. Ceasing and desisting from further efforts to reduce or otherwise modify the current level of fire and EMS services by the Liberty Township Fire Department in the City of Powell is hereby demanded to avoid default,” the closing of the letter states.
According to Liberty Township Trustee Shyra Eichhorn, once the letter was received by Township Administrator Matt Huffman Friday afternoon, he sent it onto all three trustees via email. She said she could not comment on the letter, because it has always been the policy of the township not to comment on pending litigation.
Trustee Melanie Leneghan, board chair, said she was not aware of the letter, but that the CEDA agreement had mostly to do with development between Powell and the township. She said most of that had expired.
The EMS conflict began when the Delaware County Board of Commissioners distributed a draft master plan to township trustees throughout the county in July that offered four individual options for Emergency Medical Services (EMS), with one of the options being a countywide run EMS department.
The study and corresponding draft were provided by Fitch and Associates of Platte City, Missouri.
Michael Frommer, Delaware County administrator, was invited by Liberty Township trustees to present the master draft plan and answer questions at the Oct. 1 meeting.
Trustee Mike Gemperline could not be reached for comment on the cease and desist letter.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.