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Wabash Township Board Member resigns

Board member Michelle Wietbrock resigned on Tuesday. This comes as the remaining board members tabled a resolution that would create a pension program for paid firefighters.

Posted: Mar 17, 2021 12:32 AM
Updated: Mar 17, 2021 12:33 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)-Several topics were discussed during Tuesday nights 2 two-hour-long Wabash Township Board Meeting. First, the remaining board members recognized Michelle Wietbrock's resignation. In a statement on her Facebook page, she said the following. 

"Effective immediately, I submit my notice of resignation from the Wabash Township Advisory Board. This decision was not made lightly, but rather with no other choice due to increased family needs and health issues.
As many can attest, COVID has drastically changed our lives and I am no exception. In August, my family made the decision to homeschool our oldest son because of recent learning disability diagnoses. This was an unforeseen decision that has occupied much of my time, as my tenure on the board only started right before the COVID pandemic began. The learning curve as a parent of a child with learning disabilities is a steep one and it requires more time and attention than when I began to homeschool. You all are aware of some of the tumult surrounding Wabash township and I no longer have the time to dedicate to it. If I have learned anything from the COVID pandemic, it is that I must make the needs of my family and health my first priority.
It’s been a great honor to work with my fellow board members, office staff, and firefighters. I will continue to be a staunch supporter of the Wabash Township Fire Department & those who dedicate their lives to public safety." 

A caucus will be held by the Democratic Committee precinct within the next 30 days to elect a replacement for Wietbrock. Anyone interested should contact the Tippecanoe County Democratic Headquarters. 

Following the board's recognition of Wietbrock's resignation, the board took public comment. One resident announced he has started a petition asking for Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising's resignation. Jon Rienstra-Kiracofe started the petition because he feels Teising isn't properly representing the community. At last check the petition had over 1,200 signatures click here to view that petition. 

Another public comment came from Andrew Spiker. He announced that he resigned from the Wabash Township Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter. He said it wasn't something he wanted to do, but added that he felt the work environment has become toxic due to Trustee Teising. This comes as the fire department says they are answering around 100 calls a month. The fire department says they have around 15-20 active volunteers. 

As for regular business during the meeting, the Wabash's Township Board voted to table a resolution that would provide a pension and disability fund for paid firefighters in the township.

The resolution, if passed, would enroll current and future paid firefighters in the Wabash Township Fire Department in the 1977 Retirement Fund. That fund is similar in nature to 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans.

Providing a retirement plan to firefighters in the township is something board members say was promised to paid firefighters when they were hired.

Wabash Township Board President Angel Valentin says they have requested more information about the township's financial status from Township Trustee Jennifer Teising.

"Our understanding from the documents that were handed over to the state is that there is enough funding for us to be able to start the process now to create the retirement benefits," said Valentin.  "We can't just assume that we need more information."

The board hopes to vote on creating the pension program next month, once they are provided with more information about the township's financial status. 

They say as long as they have enough information they will do so. Trustee Teising did not attend the virtual meeting. She said the following in a Facebook post before the meeting started. 

"Due to the townships limited financial resources for legal representation I am unable to attend meetings that are outside the statutory requirements. I have put together my responses to the board's agenda for their meeting this evening. 
I would ask the board to stay within their statutory roles and responsibilities and decide:
1. If they are in agreement to using emergency funds for the next two years to keep firefighters on staff with health and retirement benefits.
2. If they are, to organize a detailed list of questions or vote to approve retirement plans that were presented to them at the Feb 9th meeting.

The board has another meeting scheduled for April 20th. 

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