Things have gone much slower in reaching a contract agreement between Brookfield Township and the Brookfield Township Volunteer Fire Department than each side has liked, but not because of any major differences in opinion.
The sides met publicly Aug. 8, six months after their previous meeting, and hammered out a few details.
The contract would memorialize the responsibilities of each side as they have been in practice for years, including the township’s annual $12,000 payment to the volunteers.
It also would make the volunteers responsible for managing the social hall that is attached to the main fire department station at 774 Route 7. The volunteers took over management early this year after former Fire Chief Keith Barrett, who had been managing the hall, retired.
The trustees do not want the fire chief running the hall, said Trustee Dan Suttles.
The volunteers, however, do not know if they want to make a commitment to running the hall, and balked at setting a three-year contract term. The volunteers said they want at least a year of running the hall under their belts so they can look at expenses and revenues, get a feel for maintenance needs, and then decide if they want to continue the arrangement.
The volunteers have not had enough time to determine “if it’s something we can afford and can continue doing,” said volunteer fire department Secretary Randy Richman.
The trustees said they can make the social hall section of the contract subject to annual review. The trustees also want to know what it costs to run the hall, but don’t want to take on the responsibility of running it, said Trustee Ron Haun.
“It’s important to keep this thing going,” he said. “I don’t want it to be something that can be a drag.”
Suttles said he does not want the hall to compete with Tiffany Banquet Center, keeping the social hall a low-cost alternative for someone who can’t afford Tiffany’s.
However, Haun said he would like the hall to be able to sustain itself, including absorbing costly repairs, such as a new roof.
The way the contract proposal is worded, the volunteers would be responsible for all maintenance, said Cliff Elliott, president and a captain of the volunteers.
“We can’t afford that,” he said.
Haun said his goal is for the hall to break even, which is why he is encouraging the volunteers to consider raising rental feels, but not saying that they need to do it, and leaving it up to the volunteers to decide whether they want to allow the serving of alcohol at events.
Richman agreed the volunteers need to change their management philosophy.
“I don’t think it was ever looked at as a business,” he said. “It was looked at as a community service.”
In terms of the non-social hall part of the proposal, Richman said his goal was to provide consistency and address the reality of the fire department, such as eliminating verbiage that goes back to the days when the volunteer fire department was “the” fire department.
Now, Brookfield has a full-time paid fire staff and the senior ranking paid man is the officer in charge of a scene, Suttles said.
The trustees said they would pass on the changes requested by the volunteers to attorney Gil Blair for the creation of a new draft that the volunteers can review.