BELLAIRE - Following a closed-door executive session, Bellaire Village Council voted Thursday to cut ties with the bankrupt Neffs Fire Department and start its own volunteer unit.
Representatives of the Neffs Fire Department addressed council at the end of its public forum and requested that council make a decision on the renewal of its contract with the village. The representatives felt as though council had placed the issue aside for too long.
After some debate over whether they should vote on the issue with council members Lou Ann Bennett and Jerry Fisher absent, council ultimately voted down the proposed contract. The village will remain with the department until July 30 when the current agreement expires.
Council then voted to establish the Bellaire Volunteer Fire Department and appointed Code Enforcer Bill Swoyer as the acting fire chief. Further details about the changes will be forthcoming.
The Neffs Fire Department filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November. Court documents at that time listed the department's assets at $755,000 and its debts at $1.84 million, including $800,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.
In other business, council accepted a $9,300 donation made by the Forest Hills Community Association from the Lydia Ashworth Fund. The money will be used to purchase equipment for the village's police department.
The donation is in memory of Ashworth, a 92-year-old woman who was murdered in her Bellaire home in 2012. Two men, Devin Fuller and Brandon Phelps, were convicted of killing Ashworth earlier this year and received sentences of life and 20 years, respectively.
"They wanted to help our local police department out by donating these funds from their fund in memory of Ms. Ashworth. We are very grateful for their generosity," Treasurer Tom Sable said.
Councilman Jim Williams also addressed a recent clean-up effort that has been started in the village and encouraged people to volunteer for the program.
"The purpose of the committee is to basically clean up Bellaire again," he said. "It will basically be picking up trash, cutting weeds (and) things like that, if we can get enough volunteers to do that."
Williams said the clean-up committee will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Veterans' Affairs office on Belmont Street. Anyone who would like to volunteer is welcome to attend.