School District Now Caught Up In Fire Coverage Dispute In Huntington County

By Jeff Neumeyer

January 15, 2014 Updated Jan 15, 2014 at 6:42 PM EDT

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- Looking for answers to a fire protection problem badgering an area school system.

Huntington County Community Schools is exploring legal action to preserve top-notch fire coverage for school buildings in a township bordering Huntington.

21 Alive News has reported that Huntington Township officials will begin getting their fire protection in April from four volunteer departments, after they balked at a demand to pay the city $540,000 a year for city crews to handle the township's fire and emergency calls.

Huntington County Community Schools, or HCCSC, is now learning its insurance premiums for a half dozen school properties in the township will be increasing by tens of thousands of dollars annually, because the level of coverage will be lower rated.

Nobody is saying the volunteer firefighters aren't qualified, but what will response times be?

" We are not in the bit afraid of the services that we're going to get, the question is how long is it going to take them to get there. Response times are everything in emergencies," said Kevin Patrick, HCCSC Board President.

Patrick says the district has 2,600 students and staff and buildings that have a value of more than $75-million.

The school system originally was led to believe the suspension of city service wouldn't happen until 2015.

Now, officials are scrambling to guarantee good coverage after this year's budget was already set in stone.

For years, the Fort Wayne Community School system has had a contract with the Fort Wayne Fire Department to make fire runs to Wayne High School, the old Elmhurst High School, and other buildings outside city limits.

It's an arrangement that could be copied by the Huntington public school system.

"We can't take the risk of the added response times to our buildings, and so we will begin, or we will have to begin, those discussions with the city of Huntington to supply those services," Patrick said.

Still unclear, whether the district will take legal action, possibly seeking a court injunction requiring the city to continue providing fire coverage to the township, until some resolution can be reached.

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