It was two meetings ago that members of the Howell Board of Fire Commissioners came out to express their displeasure at an ordinance that they believed would have a negative affect on their operations.
At that meeting the council voted to introduce the ordinance but delayed adopting it so they could have further discussions with the fire bureau and the commissioners. Last Tuesday night the council voted down the original ordinance and instead voted for a new one following several meetings with different groups.
Mayor Bill Gotto said along with Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro they attended meetings with the fire commissioners and also held separate meetings to make the ordinance agreeable to everyone. "I understand it is a little bit of a difficult issue," he said. "Sometimes it's hard when you're doing something for a long period of time to put some of the egos and things like that aside."
Despite some initial objections Gotto said he believes the new ordinance is a compromise that most of the commissioners have gotten behind. Township Manager Helene Schlegel also said the current version is "better," than what had originally introduced. "We took into consideration some of the things the board of fire commissioners were asking," she said. "We've agreed to work it out jointly and I think this is a win win for everybody."
Schlegel said with the new ordinance the board of fire commissioners will be the legal enforcing agency for the Howell Fire Bureau and they will work "hand in hand," with the township. "The original ordinance took out all reference to the joint board of fire commissioners and that wasn't necessarily the intent."
After the meeting Mayor Gotto said he was glad the interested parties were able to work together for the new ordinance and they will continue to work together to make it work in the future. "According to statute when you have a board of fire commissioners in your municipality one or all of them is the default for being the local enforcement agency," he said. "They can remove themselves from that and ask the municipality and in this case they did not."
The mayor said the current ordinance does not change much for the township or the commissioners. "This version right now changes nothing more than cements the idea that the final authority on expenditures, budgets and things like that stays with the elected officials that are responsible for taxing the public for it."
Gotto said the newly introduced ordinance will not be up for public hearing and adoption until the council's March 19 meeting to allow more meetings to be held prior to final adoption.