By Kathleen Sloan
Plaintiffs, comprised mostly of ex-Village of Williamsburg firefighters, filed a declaratory judgment against the Village of Williamsburg on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
A declaratory judgment essentially asks the court to recognize a law has been broken and to grant some sort of relief.
In this case, plaintiffs claim the Village violated their own ordinance or local law that formed the volunteer fire department in 1972 by shutting the fire hall Aug. 9. The action ended as much as 25 years of service for some.
Ordinances must be amended or repealed by ordinance, claim the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs claim that their due process rights were violated when this necessary step was skipped.
Plaintiffs also filed a request for a preliminary injunction – that is, they ask the court to prevent the village trustees from giving fire protection services, the fire hall and equipment over to the Truth or Consequences Fire Department. They ask that the fire hall be reopened under the original ordinance.
Plaintiffs filed before 90 days elapsed since the Aug. 9 closure. That window of time is important because state Fire Protection Fund Law, Section 59A-53-14A, states, “If any fire department operated by a municipality or county fire district should go out of existence or for any reason cease to operate and function for a period of ninety days,” all equipment paid for and monies from the state fire protection funds revert back to the state.
The city may have already taken over services, as of Nov. 1, since the village and city passed resolutions Oct. 11 and Oct. 22, respectively, which enact the switch on that date.
Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Edmund Kase III has been assigned the case. He has not set a hearing date, as of press time.
Williamsburg trustees, asked shortly after Aug. 9 how they could bypass their 1972 ordinance, said House Bill 11 gave them the authority. That bill amended Fire Protection Fund Law to include that “any municipality may permit its fire department to service an area adjacent and contiguous to its corporate limits…”
Trustees must have changed their minds about bypassing the existing ordinance, however. At their Oct. 11 meeting an ordinance was on the agenda, which gave no description of the subject matter, just the number of the ordinance – 112.