The Pine Township
Board is going to court after Pine Township Trustee Tammy Watkins
unilaterally--and over the board’s specific objection--awarded a fire
protection contract to the Town of Pines Fire Department for the whole of
unincorporated Pine Township.
the completed fire protection contract to the Pine Township Board at its
Oct. 3 meeting, two days after the contract went into effect. Watkins had
previously terminated a fire protection contract with the Beverly Shores FD,
which unsuccessfully challenged the termination in court. The Beverly Shores
FD had been providing fire protection under contract to unincorporated Pine
Township since the dissolution of the Pine Township FD in 2016.
Watkins serves as
secretary of the Pines FD Inc.; her husband, Robert Watkins, as its chief;
and her son, Michael Watkins, as its assistant chief.
At its July 30
meeting, the Pine Township Board refused to approve a proposed contract with
the Pines FD--despite Watkins’ insistence that it do so--and instead voted
unanimously to adopt a resolution which stated, among other things, the
following: that the Beverly Shores FD “is more experienced and more capable
of providing better fire service with better equipment than the Pines Fire
Department Inc.”; and that it “has better mutual aid relationships” than the
On Nov. 1, the Pine
Township Board’s attorney, Terry Hiestand, filed a motion to intervene
before Porter Superior Court Jeffrey Clymer. That motion seeks three things:
--An order from
Clymer which would put the matter of fire protection service to binding
arbitration, “wherein the arbitrator would have the opportunity to fully
consider the proposals for fire protection and make a decision that both the
Township Trustee aned Township Board would be required to accept.”
which would prevent Trustee Watkins from disbursing any funds to the Pines
FD pending the conclusion of binding arbitration.
--And an order
which would authorize the use of Pine Township moneys to pay the cost of
arbitration and the Township Board’s legal fees.
notes the following: that the Pine Township board’s position “is and always
has been” that it “must approve any contract for firefighting services”; and
that Indiana Code is very clear on the issue, to wit, I.C. 36-8-13-3, that
“the executive of a township”--that is, the trustee--“with the approval of
the legislative body”--that is, the township board--may contract with a
volunteer fire department that maintains adequate firefighting service.
also notes: that the Pine Township Board did not authorize Watkins to
terminate the Beverly Shores FD’s contract; and that its members “believe
that the capabilities of the former contractor, Beverly Shores Volunteer
Firemen Inc., are superior to the capabilities of Pines Fire Department Inc.
argues that Watkins “has an irreconcilable conflict of interest due to her
relationships with the Pine Fire Department Inc.”
Clymer is set to
hear the motion at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20.