City, township settle benefit dispute
Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise
Jul. 13, 2018 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Plymouth City Commissioners took action last week to ratify a settlement agreement regarding past fire department legacy costs. The move, long delayed and the subject of much apprehension by township officials, proved to affirm their desire to build a cohesive relationship with Plymouth Township.
Township officials, suspicious of the city procrastination after a $1.1 million settlement agreement was negotiated, filed a lawsuit against the city just days before the city commissioners acted. The lawsuit was filed to protect the township interest in the years- long debacle. This was the second lawsuit filed against the city alleging the breach of a 1994 Intergovernmental Fire services Agreement (IGA). The IGA was the formal agreement between the city and township that regulated the now defunct Plymouth Community Fire Department that operated between 1994 and 2010.
The two municipalities were on track to resolve the final issues regarding remaining health care costs owed to the township but could not amicably reconcile differences that reached a crescendo in years past. Former Township Treasurer Ron Edwards steadfastly insisted a $3.7 to $4 million amount would be required to settle the 17-year-old agreement and convinced the township board members to vote to cease making any agreements with the city until after the August 2016 election.
With the 2016 election aside, the new township administration fostered a fresh relationship with the city commission and settlement appeared imminent. The desire to mend bridges with city officials was evident during negotiations, officials commented.
In June 2017, city officials agreed to a submit partial payments to the township in the amount of $330,558.22 to cover four years of the retiree health care obligations from 2012 to 2015, settling the medical portion of the dispute. The city commenced making $78,000 annual payments to the township until all resolved obligations were met for a group of “over two dozen” employees. Township board members reported they felt the city obligation was closer to $1.5 million. In January, it appeared the settlement was near when members of the city commission approved a Tolling Agreement to provide for a settlement without litigation or admission of fault or wrongdoing and barred an end of possible litigation due to the statue of limitation rule. At the May 22 board of trustees meeting, Supervisor Kurt Heise announced that the city commission had accepted the $1.1 million settlement counter-offer. The offer was $400,000 less than the previously reported settlement obligation estimate.
Township officials said it was in the interim period that talks bogged down for reasons unknown.
Last Monday, Plymouth City Commissioners unanimously approved a $1.1 million settlement payment to Plymouth Township that resolved any past, present and future pension costs related issues to the IGA. The commission also approved the funding for the payment to Plymouth Township utilizing internal loans from the city Waste and Recycling Fund ($550,000.) and Budget Stabilization Fund ($550,000.) to be repaid over a 10-year period. Heise was jubilant after learning of the settlement ratification.
“This closes a bitter chapter in the history our two communities…The Plymouth community is united and moving forward for our residents and visitors.
This is what culture change looks like,” he said.