Niles Township approves changes to fire department staff, hears 2019 audit

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — Three firefighters will be leaving the Niles Charter Township Fire Department over the next few weeks.

At the regular board meeting hosted at the Niles Charter Township on Monday evening, the board accepted the resignation of volunteer firefighters Darian Goodlander and Chris DiCostanzo, as well as Chief Gary Brovold, who has served the department for 37 years.

Township supervisor Jim Stover read the resignation letter from Brovold. In the letter, Brovold said he was hired in July 1983 as a volunteer firefighter with the department, and in 2004, the Niles Township Board hired him as the department’s fire chief.

“The opportunity to serve the residents of Niles Township has been filled with moments of joy and heartbreak,” Brovold said. “This job comes with many moments of sadness. Loss of life and property is a heavy burden that we carry, and for some, it can be overwhelming. Every firefighter has learned to deal with it, but has never forgotten it.”

Brovold said he has an opportunity to take on new roles and responsibilities, and thanked the Niles Charter Township for the opportunity to serve as the department’s fire chief for nearly 17 years.

“We knew this day was going to come. Eventually we lose the good ones,” Stover said. “Gary has done a good job for the township.”

Treasurer Jim Ringler agreed and said Brovold stepped up in the fire department as chief during a time when the department was experiencing some issues.

“He’s worked out well, and he’s been very good to work with over the years,” Ringler said. “I wish him nothing but the best. He certainly deserves a great retirement.”

Following accepting Brovold’s resignation, the board also accepted resignations from volunteer firefighters Darian Goodlander and Chris DiCostanzo.

Goodlander did not submit a formal letter, but it was noted he was likely moving out of state and would no longer be available to serve.

DiCostanzo thanked the board for allowing him to serve as a volunteer firefighter, and said he was stepping down due to personal reasons.

“I don’t think they come any better than Chris,” Ringler said. “It’s sad to see him leave the department. He’s been nothing but a truly public servant, especially at the volunteer level.”

Before the resignations were accepted, two pieces of equipment were approved for purchase for the department of public works, including a replacement metal detector and an XR50 Life Station Monitor.

The May 2020 Police Report was listed on the agenda, but Stover noted the sheriff had not arrived for the meeting.

Joe Verlin, certified public accountant from Gabridge and Co. in Grand Rapids, presented the 2019 Audit of the Niles Charter Township at the beginning of the meeting.

Verlin stated the state treasury would be pushing for the township, and others around the state, to up its self-funding by 5 percent every few years. In 2019, the Niles Charter Township fell just shy of being 65 percent self-funded.

“If we turned back the clock to 2019 and had the township put $325,000 into its pension plan last year, it would have put you north of 65 percent,” Verlin said.

He said the budget changes from year to year, so it would take another analysis to from actuaries to see what it would take to get to that level for the 2020 year.

Stover inquired as to how the budget looked, and if the township did not make any big changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, what their budget looked like.

“You’re very fortunate in which you have 21 months of balance in the [township’s] general fund. You are in better shape than most of my clients in being able to weather this storm from the virus,” Verlin said. “We know there’s going to be periods where the state’s shared revenues are going to be cut in half, more or less. They’ve done that, historically. We don’t know how long it will take for them to get back up in the cycle.”

The board members accepted the mostly positive news from Verlin about its 2019 budget.

“Our rainy day funds? The rain has started,” Ringler said.

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