Zoar Council moves to evict fire department

Zoar Council moves to evict fire department

Mark Gaynor was elected to Zoar Village Council on April 23. Pictured with him are his wife Kristy and their children, Daniel, Abigal and Emily.


In a special meeting on Friday, April 23, Zoar Council installed Mark Gaynor to serve a term ending Dec. 23, 2023. Gaynor will fulfill the term left vacant by the late Hans Fischer.

Gaynor has served on council twice before and is the chairman of the planning commission. He also is a member of the historic preservation commission, the cemetery board and the Zoar Community Association.

A resident of Zoar since 2002, Gaynor is the owner of Indian River Graphics and Weaving Haus Antiques.

Eviction proceedings to begin at fire department

Council members voted during the same meeting to begin eviction proceedings against the Zoar Volunteer Fire Department Inc. Judy Meiser abstained from the vote as her son is the fire chief in Zoar.

The fire department has occupied the building at 190 Fifth Street since it was built in 1953-54. Council wants to use the building as a new community and safety center, but ownership of the building and the land are currently being disputed.

Discussions have become quite heated since the Village of Zoar signed a fire contract with Bolivar Fire Department as part of the Lawrence Township contract on March 23. Council claims the village owns the land and building, and records at the Tuscarawas County Auditor’s Office show the 1.08-acre parcel as belonging to the Village of Zoar. However, the fire department claims village council gave the land to them, citing meeting minutes and a resolution passed by council on Dec. 9, 1953.

As of Monday, April 26, the fire department had not been served with a notice of eviction, according to the department’s attorney, Patrick Williams. Williams is handling the case, along with Matthew Petit and Kevin Lundholm.

“We anticipated this might be the course of action,” Williams said. “But we believe we have a valid argument that the property was given to the fire department in 1953.”

Williams said the gift and record of it constitutes a contract. “When council entered a resolution to give the property to the Zoar Volunteer Fire Department, they manifested an intent to give that property to them. The department then acted in reliance upon that promise and built a structure using largely their own labor and funds and have continued adding on using their own funds. The result is you now have a structure close to 3/4 million dollars.”

Village solicitor Douglas Frautschy disagrees with this argument, saying the language from council minutes also can be interpreted as the village simply giving permission for the firemen to build the fire station on public land.

“If the original intent was to give the land to the ZVFD, they could simply have deeded it to them,” Frautschy said in a letter of response to Williams.

Williams said, “Regardless of whether a quit claim deed was ever filed, once the department acted in reliance, it constituted a meeting of the minds and the contract was effectuated.”

When the village did not renew its contract with them, the fire department lost its Fire Department Identification Number status. This means they lost the protection of the state fire marshal against liability should they respond to a fire. According to Williams, this, and not negligence or a lack of capabilities, is the reason the department did not respond to fire calls earlier this year.

The Zoar Volunteer Fire Department Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The department still maintains mutual aid contracts with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the American Red Cross. A signed contract with any municipality would restore its FDIN status and protections.

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