Township, city agree to settlement talks
Jan. 27, 2016 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Members of the Plymouth City Commission recently approved a Tolling Agreement, a legal document that will enable negotiation of the dispute with Plymouth Township about fire department legacy costs.
The agreement, approved unanimously, was reviewed by city attorney Robert Marzano, and subsequently presented for a commission vote. The agreement provides for a settlement of the issues without litigation or any admission of fault, liability or wrongdoing.
City and township officials who have been embroiled in a derisive dispute about the fire department retiree benefits said they plan to move forward in an earnest attempt to continue negotiations and postpone a pending lawsuit filed by the prior township administration. The Tolling Agreement follows years of discord after the dissolution of a 17-year joint fire services agreement between the two municipalities that ended in 2010. Prior to the November general election, township attorneys filed the five-count lawsuit alleging the city refused to pay its obligation to the township for post-termination health care costs, medical benefits and retirement related costs for “over two dozen employees” who performed services under the subject fire department agreement.
The lawsuit named the City of Plymouth as defendants and alleges the city breached a 1994 Intergovernmental Fire Services Agreement (IGA)–later modified in 1999– and the breach has incurred damages in excess of $25,000. The township further claimed the city had a contractual obligation and violated the State Constitution as it relates to the pension and retirement system and retained monies wrongfully paid by the township toward the city portion of the shared costs.
The IGA was the initial contract between the city and the township that regulated the joint fire operation, known as the Plymouth Community Fire Department, from 1995 to 2010 when the city elected to partner with Northville City Fire Department, an all volunteer-on-call department.
Newly-elected Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise authorized township attorney Kevin Bennett to create the Tolling Agreement after securing approval from the township board of trustees.
The agreement states in part, “The Township and the City wish to continue voluntary negotiations to resolve the dispute regarding the payment by the City to the township of health care cost…as well as to explore other potential options of resolution, such as mediation and/or arbitration…”
The agreement allows both parties to waive a right to claim that litigation should be dismissed due to the expiration of a statute of limitations and allows the city additional time to assess the alleged charges that it breached a 23-year-old joint city and township fire services agreement.
Heise said the lawsuit was approved and filed during the lame duck period of former Supervisor Shannon Price.
Former Township Treasurer Ron Edwards steadfastly insisted the city would have to reimburse the township between $3.7 to $4 million in order to settle the dispute.
Last June before the primary election, Price announced that the city agreed to pay a partial settlement to the township of $330,558.22 toward retiree health care costs incurred between 2012 to 2015.