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As a whole, the Bronson Town Council was a bit shaky Monday night in its decision to approve an agreement between Bronson and the City of Williston for fire protection and emergency services.
Each member expressed interest in the agreement, but a letter from the county reminding them of previously agreed-to terms cast some doubt as to the direction town officials should take.
The letter wasn’t included in the night’s agenda packet, but, according to Town Clerk Kelli Brettel, it stated that Bronson needed to have the county’s permission before making any such agreements for fire protection with neighboring cities.
Council Member Berlon Weeks said he didn’t think such a clause should ever have been included in the contract between Bronson and the county.
The contract was, however, approved by the council years ago.
Still, Weeks said it wasn’t fair or legal. “It seems like we can’t make a decision ....“ he said.
Williston Fire Chief Lamar Stegall was on hand at Monday’s meeting and said he felt confident approving the contract with Williston would not be an issue with the county.
“I’ve been on the phone with Mr. Moody ( County Coordinator Fred Moody) today. He sees no problem with it,” Stegall said, adding that it would still have to be submitted before the county for final approval.
Weeks said he was concerned approving the contract would, somehow, put Bronson at odds with the county.
County Commissioner John Meeks, often in attendance at Bronson council meetings, was asked how he saw the matter.
“I’m here as an observer,” Meeks said. “I, personally, do not want to comment on it,” though, he added, he felt the matter would be “an issue” with some of the members on the board.
Council Member Aaron Edmondson said he felt like the town was being held hostage by the county.
Meeks said he’d be happy to discuss the issue outside, “not on the record.”
“We’re gonna’ do what we have to do ....” Edmondson said about the council’s decision, comparing the county’s letter to a “tactic.”
Council Member Bruce Greenlee said he understood the feelings expressed by some of the council members, though, he reminded them, “We’ve got a signed contract.”
He also acknowledged the importance of having a “pool to pull from,” which would be the result of the contract with Williston.
Town Attorney Steven Warm said he’d like time to review the contract with the county, saying he was unsure about the legality of some of the wording.
“I’m not saying his ( County Public Safety Director David Knowles) position is wrong here, but it does bear some scrutiny.”
Weeks asked to table the matter.
Stegall asked why the Williston contract should be tabled if it could, quite simply, be approved pending agreement by county commissioners.
“I just want to make sure we don’t make Big Brother mad,” Weeks said.
Greenlee said he’d hate to realize that approving such a contract would jeopardize funds the town receives from the county. Bronson’s fire department has made a lot of improvements, he said. “That’s what it’s about.”
Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts said she didn’t see the difference either way if one of the conditions for the contract was that it couldn’t go forward without county approval.
“If they say ‘no,’ then we just turn Williston down,” she said.
“I think, like Berlon, we should just table it until next meeting,” Edmondson said.
Warm said, in his opinion, the letter seemed “to be saying ‘don’t do anything until we’ve looked at it and put a rubber stamp on it.’”
It’s a “semi-diplomatic” way of saying “stop right there,” he said.
Weeks made a motion to table the issue. Edmondson seconded, and it was approved unanimously.