Townships battle over fire equipment

Green Bay Township asks county for bond funds to secure equipment


LEE COUNTY - A township shoving match of sorts spilled into the board room of the Lee County Supervisors' Monday morning.

Green Bay Township officials approached supervisors for bond funds to sustain an injunction over Denmark Township to maintain possession of fire trucks and equipment currently housed at the Wever Fire Station.

The issue stems from the expiration of a 28E agreement between Green Bay Township and Denmark Fire Association. The 10-year agreement expired on Oct. 3 of 2021 and, since that time, court action has taken place over fire protection for Green Bay Township and how to mitigate property being held at the Wever Fire station.

The trucks and equipment belong to Denmark Fire Association by title, but the injunction has been awarded to Green Bay Township to keep the equipment in Wever. However District 8B Judge John Wright imposed a $137,500 cash bond on Green Bay Township to trigger the injunction.

County Auditor Denise Fraise said townships typically don’t carry that kind of cash reserve so the county would have to borrow the money to pay the bond.

The two entities entered into the agreement in October of 2011 along with Washington Township and Pleasant Ridge Township. Pleasant Ridge was the only non-contributing entity in the partnership. On Oct. 3 2021, the 28E expired and a legal scuttlebutt has been underway since that time.

Tom Gregg, with the Green Bay Township district, said the Denmark Fire Association Board was originally comprised of one representative from Green Bay Township, one from Washington Township, one from Pleasant Ridge Township, and three from Denmark Township.

Green Bay sought equal representation to continue the 28E, but Denmark Township rejected that request.

In the interim, Green Bay Township formed their own fire association, Wever Fire Association, Inc, which currently now receives the funds levied for fire protection in the township. But they continue to use fire equipment housed at the Wever Fire Station.

Now a lawsuit has been working its way through the court system to resolve the issue. Trial has been initially set for October of this year.

Denmark has stated an intent to recover trucks, bunker gear, helmets, nozzles, and airpacks, according to Gregg.

Gregg said that would leave Green Bay Township without the ability to provide fire protection as well as mutual aid to surrounding departments. He said Green Bay has to put up the bond to continue to provide that service and asked the county to authorize the expenditure.

“We do this for the purpose of ensuring the residence, businesses, and manufacturing facilities of our township and adjoining townships in case of mutual aid, and continue to have fire protection until the case is litigated.”

Lee County Attorney Ross Braden said he's done some background work on the litigation but is engaging the assistance of state officials and township attorneys to determine the county's responsibility in the matter. Braden cannot represent either entity due to conflict of interest, but can provide guidance to supervisors regarding the injunction.

He recommended that the action be tabled for one week until he could speak further with those officials.

Supervisor chair Garry Seyb asked Braden if the county had standing in authorizing the payment.

"I'm not 100% sure about that yet," Braden told supervisors. "It was brought to my attention Wednesday that the township could come to the board to ask for these funds."

On Friday, Braden spoke with Green Bay Township attorney Holly Corkery of Lynch Dallas out of Cedar Rapids.

Braden said he expressed concerns whether the bond for an injunction for a civil suit is something that townships would be able to levy for as part of fire protection services.

Braden said the bond is an anticipatory bond in anticipation of taxes they would be able to collect. Braden said he had concerns that the bond would fit as a fire protection expense under Iowa code.

"My recommendation, and I understand the dire situation here, would be to table any decision for one week. I did speak with Miss Corkery, she indicated we should not jeopardize the equipment at Green Bay Township currently,” he said.

Seyb asked if Green Bay Township would be able to maintain their equipment without fear of it being unavailable.

Braden said there were no guarantees from Denmark Fire Association that he's aware of. But he said there is language in the litigation that Denmark Fire can come and inspect the equipment in April.

"If we table this one week, it should not impact the possession of the equipment."

Fraise said townships cannot borrow or bond funding in these matters and they don’t have that kind of cash reserves, however can levy for litigation. She said Washington, Green Bay, and Denmark Townships are all involved in the litigation and are levying to pay for the costs of pursuing the action.

“The taxpayers are paying for this,” Fraise said. “If we can do this, and that’s and if, the money would be held as value for the equipment.”

If, and when, the issue is resolved, the bond would be released and the county would be able to repay the loan it would have to take out to fund the bond. Fraise said the county didn’t have the funds in the general fund and would have to take out a loan. 

Green Bay Township, Denmark Township, 28E, agreement, fire protection, equipment, lawsuit, Lee County, supervisors, Ross Braden, courts, Denise Fraise,


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