Bamboozled: Historic site faces a new battle

BB brandingHannah Caldwell looked out the window.

Then she was shot dead.

Her body was removed, and the home she had shared with her nine children and her husband — the local minister — was looted and burned.

Caldwell’s demise was part of the Battle of Connecticut Farms on June 7, 1780, one of the last major fights between Americans and the British during the Revolutionary War.

The building where Caldwell died — known as called Caldwell Parsonage — was rebuilt in 1782, and it still stands at 909 Caldwell Ave. in Union.

The building is on national and state registries of historic places, and it houses the Union Township Historical Society.

Visitors can see cannonballs from the Battle of Connecticut Farms. A quilt collection. Deeds of lands for sale dating back to 1709. Hundreds of tools from the colonial era.

But now, the historic Caldwell Parsonage, which is no stranger to war, is faced with a different kind of battle.
The historical society says the safety of its irreplaceable historical displays is being held hostage by a security company — Fire & Security Specialists of Union — and its beloved contents may no longer be protected from theft or fire.

“We can’t get a new security company to work with us until Fire & Security gives us the code for the fire alarm panel, but they wouldn’t release it to me,” said David Arminio, president of the Union Township Historical Society. “I really don’t know if we’re even still covered.”

61614The problem stems from a billing and contract dispute.

Fire & Security first started providing security services at the Caldwell Parsonage on April 15, 2004, when the historical society’s past president signed a five-year contract with the company. In 2009, another five-year contract was signed.

That agreement was due to end on April 15, 2014.

After Arminio became the society’s president four years ago, he said he was dissatisfied with some service and billing issues. There were several charges he questioned in writing, saying he believed the issues should have been covered by the existing service contract. He also objected to being charged sales tax because the historical society was tax-exempt.

Additionally, Arminio questioned the timing of bills for annual service that he said did not correspond with the anniversary dates of the contract.

In a September 2011 letter, Arminio asked for clarification about the sales tax issue and some charges he believed should have been covered under the contract. In the letter, reviewed by Bamboozled, Arminio said if he wasn’t satisfied by the company’s response, he’d send another letter giving 30-day notice to cancel the contract per the document’s cancellation clause.

He asked the company to respond in writing.

Fire & Security’s president, Charles Minton, responded in a December 2011 letter, addressing Arminio’s questions and saying the society would no longer be charged sales tax.

But in the months that followed, Arminio still wasn’t happy with the company and he tried to cancel the contract.

In a September 2012 letter, he wrote: “I am informing you in writing at least thirty days in advance (as indicated on the contract) that the Union Township Historical Society would like to terminate the agreement between it and your company.”

That would be at the end of the annual service agreement, or April 15, 2013.

But a month before the renewal date, the society received a bill for annual services for the coming year. Arminio responded in writing, reminding the company the society was opting out of the contract on the renewal date.

But on April 2, 2013, Fire & Security’s Minton said the contract was for a full five years.

In the letter, Minton said the contract could be canceled early, but “…you would still owe all amounts due on the unexpired contract. Also you did not specify a date certain to stop monitoring of the fire alarm so we can’t assume the cessation date without your direction.”

He said he needed notification of the date and the name of the new security company the society planned to hire so Minton could notify the fire marshal, which Minton said was required by law.

He also wrote: “We have your direction to cancel before the renewal period in 2014.”

Arminio replied on April 8, saying the historical society would honor the remaining year of the contract.

On September 23, 2013, Arminio wrote again, reminding the company that the society wanted to terminate coverage at the end of the five-year contract period.

“That date we established as April 15, 2014,” he wrote.

But that’s not what happened.


In early 2014, the historical society received a new invoice from Fire & Security. It was for the period covering April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015, costing $504.

So in a letter dated March 24, Arminio wrote again, saying the society had previously opted out of the April 15 contract renewal in writing, and he didn’t pay the bill.

“When the anniversary date came and went, I thought I was through with Fire & Security and hired another company,” he said.

Then on April 28, another bill arrived for a $10 late payment charge. The renewal charges were not on the bill.

Arminio responded in writing on May 2, saying the society did not renew the contact with Fire & Security, and he said he fulfilled all contractual obligations by informing the company of the non-renewal in writing months before.

The company answered, Arminio said, with another bill.

That invoice showed a $2,560 charge for the yearlong period ending March 31, 2015, but was cut in half to $1,260 thanks to a “Central Station early termination discount.”

The bill said: “This is the final invoice to satisfy your contractual obligations to us as a result of you cancelling our services before the contract you signed expired.”

It also said: “You never specified a cancellation date for services merely saying you were considering canceling our services. Contract requires 30 day notice to cancel. You were sent renewal notices in March but you did not respond until March 25 for an April 15 renewal but did not give a cancellation date until your letter of May 2, 2014. Contract renewed on 4/15/14.)”

But this billing dispute isn’t the only problem.

Arminio said the new alarm company can’t set up the system without the code to the fire alarm panel. A code only Fire & Security has.

Arminio said he called Minton in May to ask for the code.

“We had a two sentence conversation. He simply said, ‘I will not release the code until the bill is paid,’” Arminio said. “I said thank you and I hung up.”

Without the panel code, Arminio said the new security company will have to rip out the existing panel and install a new one, which would cost several hundred dollars.


We reviewed all the bills and the written correspondence between the two parties, and we also read the contract.

The contract says it will auto-renew “… unless either party gives the other at least thirty (30) days notice, prior to the expiration date, of intention to terminate this Agreement upon its original or any renewed expiration date…”

We also took a closer look at Fire & Security.

The company and president Charles Minton are both properly licensed and registered with the state, their disciplinary records are clean and the Division of Consumer Affairs doesn’t have any complaints logged against them.

We gave Minton a call.

“I don’t want to comment now,” he said. “We want to resolve it amicably.”

Exactly what that means, we’re not sure.

So we sent an email to Minton, giving him another opportunity to answer Arminio’s complaints. We wanted to ask specific questions about the letters sent by Arminio to cancel the contract.

Minton didn’t respond.

The other outstanding item is the wrongly charged sales tax, which Arminio said his organization wasn’t refunded by the company.

He could file a claim with the Division of Taxation for a refund with Form A-3730,but the claim must be filed within four years of the date of payment of the sales tax. It might be too late to recoup some of the charges

We’ll let you know what the historical society decides to do next.