Chesterton Tribune



Beverly Shores FD seeks to settle suit with Pine Trustee Tammy Watkins

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Beverly Shores Volunteer Firemen Inc. (BSVF), the nonprofit organization providing fire protection service to the Town of Beverly Shores, is seeking to settle its litigation with Pine Township Trustee Tammy Watkins, who last fall terminated BSVF’s 2019 contract to provide protection service to the entire township, then entered into a contract with the Pines FD to provide that service instead.

The story so far:

Watkins entered into that new contract with the Pines FD on Sept. 30, after Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer denied BSVF’s petition for a preliminary injunction. She entered into it, moreover, against the express wishes of the Pine Township Board.

On Nov. 4, the board’s members filed a petition of their own seeking injunctive relief and binding arbitration to settle the matter. "The intervening township board members believe that the capabilities of the former contractor, Beverly Shores Volunteer Firemen Inc., are superior to the capabilities of the Pines Fire Department Inc.,” their petition states. And they “believe that the Township Trustee has an irreconcilable conflict of interest due to her relationships with the Pines Fire Department Inc. and its membership.”

Watkins’ husband is the Pines FD chief and her son the deputy chief.

On Nov. 18, BSFV filed an amended complaint against Watkins, accusing her of breach of contract in connection with her termination of its 2019 contract, her failure to pay compensation for the first nine months of 2019 when BSFV was providing fire protection service to Pine Township, and her failure to return equipment to BSFV which it believes it’s entitled to.

On Dec. 18, Clymer denied the Pine Township Board’s petition for binding arbitration but permitted BSVF to file an amended complaint.

And that’s where the matter currently stands, as attorneys’ billable hours pile up.

BSVF, however, wants done with it, and in a letter to Watkins’ attorney dated May 29, BSVF’s attorney proposed a settlement agreement under which it would withdraw its lawsuit in exchange for back compensation of $38,250 and return of some equipment: a dozen self-contained breathing apparatuses still in the Pine Township garage, and 1,000 feet of five-inch supply hose.

BSVF, for its own part, would return 26 items of equipment currently in its possession to the Pines FD and abandon any claims to all loose equipment still in the Pine Township garage.

Accompanying the letter is an inventory of all equipment in the Pine Township garage and in the BSVF’s possession.

“BSVF has no desire to engage in further litigation in this matter,” the letter states. “It has grown costly to BSVF, and the township surely has better uses of its funds as well. At this point, BSVF is merely seeking to recover the $38,250 that it should have been paid for the nine months of services it provided to the township in 2019, and a few items of equipment in which it made a substantial investment or what was rightfully given by the Pine Township Fire Department.”

“BSVF is certainly willing to return items that legitimately belong to the township, but it will not be fruitful for either party to spend an excess of time and money attempting to collect an inventory of items from a township asset list on which the vast majority of said items are clearly shown to be past, sometimes far past, their service life,” the letter adds. “The same goes for the Pine Township Fire Department equipment, which was owned by an independent entity that gifted most of its assets to BSVF.”

According to BSVF, citing the Pine Township annual financial report for 2019, the Trustee’s Office spent $20,294 last year in legal fees directly related to the change in fire protection: that is, 53 percent of the amount in back compensation which BSVF says The Trustee’s Office owes it.


Posted 6/12/2020




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