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UPDATE, Aug. 30, 11:00 a.m.: Rescue President Mike Roof and City Solictor Donna Long Brightbill separately confirmed on Tuesday evening, Aug. 29, that their meeting was successful and the dispute has been resolved, clearing the way for the city to release the money to the fire company. Mayor Sherry Capello said this morning that “the Rescue agreed to an addendum which would add the condition to the agreement that if the Rescue sells or trades in the “Purchase”, the Rescue shall reimburse the City for 46.7% of the proceeds or value of the trade; unless the City agrees to waive the condition.”

Monday night’s Lebanon City Council meeting featured a sometimes heated dispute between the city and Rescue Hose Company No. 4 over the contribution of $650,000 of American Rescue Plan Act money toward the purchase of a new ladder truck for the northside fire company.

City Council passed a resolution in July 2022 committing the funds to Rescue Hose’s new truck.

Rescue president Mike Roof told council that he and Mayor Sherry Capello had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining the details of the release of the funds, which are to go toward the purchase of a new $1.4 million ladder truck.

A memorandum of understanding is a written agreement between two parties that reflects their willingness to move forward with a contract, but whether or not it is legally binding depends on the signers’ intent and the language in the agreement.

Capello agreed that she signed the MOU, but said that, based on the advice of city attorney Donna Long Brightbill, she does not consider the MOU to be a legally binding contract. Instead, Capello said the city is ready to release the funds if the fire company signs a modified MOU with a single additional provision requiring it to reimburse the city if the new truck is ever sold.

Capello said the city has entered into such reimbursement agreements with at least one other city fire company, and that the city could waive reimbursement if the new truck gets sold in the future.

Long Brightbill declined to say why she believes the original MOU is unenforceable, and said that she and Rescue Hose representatives have scheduled a meeting for Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 29, to try to resolve the dispute.

After Roof addressed council and accused the city of reneging on its agreement, Capello stated the city’s position, noting that it had committed to contributing 46% of the truck’s purchase price, exceeding the 25% limit set by a city ordinance.

“We want this purchase to move forward,” Capello told Roof. “If I wasn’t supportive of the Rescue Hose Company, I would not have recommended to City Council the [fire company’s] request to exceed the 25% contribution limit set by city ordinance.”

Capello made it clear that the city would release the funds if the fire company signed the original MOU with a reimbursement provision being the one and only change.

“I guess I would have to ask why are you fighting the addition of this language?” Capello asked Roof.

Councilman Chris Miller asked Roof, “What is your reservation about the change in language [of the MOU]? I’m not understanding what your concern would be with having to return funds that aren’t yours to begin with.”

“Under principle,” Roof replied, “the Rescue Hose Company sat down with the city. We agreed to sign the MOU, which it now is saying is not valid. The bottom line is, the Rescue Hose Company is on the hook for almost $1,400,000.”

At that point, council president Joe Morales interrupted. Looking at Roof, he said, “Sign the agreement, Mike.”

“It’s a matter of principle, Joe,” Roof replied.

By that time, voice levels were above conversational.

Morales told Roof that, in a text message exchange, “you got personal with me and then I had to wait two weeks for you to call me back. I know I spoke to you twice. I gave you probably an hour of my time.”

Roof responded, “You’re right, you did, and where did it get me?”

After some additional back and forth consisting primarily of “sign the agreement,” followed by “it’s the principle,” or “give us the check,” the parties agreed that they would try to resolve the dispute at Tuesday’s meeting.

Other business before Council

  • Capello informed council that she was reappointing Vincent Garcia to the city’s Design and Review Board for an additional five-year term retroactive to July 22. The board review murals and public art.
  • Capello informed council that she was appointing Courtney Reiman to her first five-year term on the Design and Review Board, also retroactive to July 22.
  • As of July 31, with the city’s fiscal year 58% complete, Capello reported that receipts are at 74% of annual budget projections, and expenditures are at 43%.

Next City Council meetings

City Council’s next pre-council planning meeting will be on Thursday, Sept. 21, at 4:45 p.m. The next regular monthly council meeting will be on Monday, Sept. 25, at 6:30 p.m.

Both meetings are open to the public and will be held in the Dixon Council Chambers on the first floor of Lebanon City Hall, 735 Cumberland St., Lebanon.

Meetings are also streamed live on YouTube, here.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...


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