SALEM City seeks permission to fund lawyer for joint fire district

The city was told not to fund a proposed fire district.
SALEM -- A judge will decide by Friday whether he will allow some funding of the controversial Quaker Community Fire District.
An attorney for Salem, James D. Kurek of Akron, is asking Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike to give the district about $15,000 to hire its own lawyer.
That lawyer, according to Kurek, would prepare documents and take steps to make the fire district operational.
City council and Perry Township have agreed to form the district and eliminate their separate fire departments.
Council has said it wants to eliminate the fire department because of sagging revenue.
On Aug. 15, Judge Pike allowed the city to appoint two members to the Quaker fire board and engage in preliminary planning for the district.
By law, the trustees also appoint two members, and those four will select a fifth board member.
Barred from funding
But Judge Pike blocked the city from taking any action to fund the district. The city has estimated it will have to pay about $600,000 a year to fund the district.
Kurek stated that the funding "will not result in the transfer of fire protection services from the fire department to the joint fire district."
Michael Burns, the head of the Salem firefighters union, said its attorney will be filing a response to the city's request with Judge Pike.
Burns said the city appeared to be trying to go ahead with planning.
"That's not what the judge said," Burns said.
The judge plans to rule on the city's request without a hearing.
The city's firefighters, who have a contract with the city, earlier filed a protest of the city's plans with the State Employee Relations Board. That is pending.

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