NEWCOMERSTOWN (WJER) (April 25, 2023) – The village is continuing to build its own fire department as its current emergency response provider faces legal challenges that threaten its existence.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is seeking to dissolve the Newcomerstown Emergency Rescue Squad and penalize it tens of thousands of dollars for allegedly violating numerous state laws and wasting more than $25,000 in charitable donations.
Newcomerstown Mayor Pat Cadle says that matter is between the NERS, which recently lost its nonprofit status, and the state attorney general’s office.
They haven’t been dissolved until Judge Thomakos makes her decision, so they can still operate until that happens. At that point, they won’t be able to make the calls.
He says the village is in the process of establishing its own volunteer fire department, with 12 firefighters on board so far.
We have 12 hired firemen and we have now four more that are taking classes to come on board. What I’m hoping is by the end of June we should have 14, and then we should have 18 firemen by the end of August, so we’re doing well with people stepping up.
The last part of our equipment comes this week. We’re going to be purchasing a fire engine. Tri-County Ambulance has graciously offered a bay at their building that we can keep the fire engine in until we get a place of our own to do that.
He expects to get clearance from the state Fire Marshall next week after an inspection of the village’s fire house.
So after next week we should be up and ready to go.
The court case
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office Friday filed a civil complaint against the NERS in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court. The case is before Judge Elizabeth Thomakos.
The attorney general’s office in court documents says the NERS reached an agreement with its office in 2020 following an investigation of its governance and finances.
Yost accuses the corporation of numerous violations of that agreement. He is seeking civil penalties of up to $10,000 dollars per violation, and accuses the NERS of wasting an unknown amount, but at least $25,000, in charitable donations. Yost says the assets would be distributed to an organization with a similar charitable purpose.
No court dates have been scheduled yet.
Yost claims the NERS failed to file annual financial reports, lost its 501c3 status, operated for 18 months without a license to administer pharmaceuticals, and doesn’t have a lawfully appointed director.
The NERS had been a registered non-profit corporation since 1981, providing fire protection, ambulance, and emergency response services to Newcomerstown and the area.