Residents Speak Out After Firefighters Let Go, Equipment Sold

By Stephanie Parkinson

May 23, 2012 Updated May 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM EDT

ST. JOSEPH TOWNSHIP, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - It's a story brewing up a lot of controversy in Allen County's St. Joseph Township. Last fall the trustee suggested outsourcing fire protection. Now the fire chief and the trustee are fighting another battle.

The trustee is making cuts and selling fire equipment without the consent of the fire chief. The fire chief says they're no longer able to provide adequate fire protection.

The residents in St. Joseph Township are very mixed on if they think the community needs its own fire department. Still they are all upset to hear how this has turned into a battle between the trustee and the leader of their fire department.

"We need to keep the fire department going, that would be the smart thing to do," said Tommy Chandler, St. Joseph Township resident.

"It sounds like there's some bad politics going on here," said Tom Dague, St. Joseph Township resident.

Many residents say they want nothing more than to keep their fire department at full capacity, and others wonder if last years proposal to outsource to Fort Wayne would be a better option.

"I think if Fort Wayne serviced us more than volunteers during the day we'd get better response time," said Rob Costanza, St. Joseph Township resident.

"Yeah, we got North Clinton Fire Department there closer to us and I think it would be closer for this community," said Dague.

Either way, all the residents I spoke with were upset to hear the trustee hasn't said where this money is going. According to the Indiana Township Association, a township trustee can only transfer 10 percent from one fund to another each year. Meaning the money saved from letting go of full time firefighters, who filled daytime shifts, must be left in the fund it was intended for. In this case, the fire fighting fund is where that money will have to stay.

"If they are going to keep taking the taxes out and spending our money that way well then, they need to keep it open," said Dague. "I think they ought to communicate better, and decide what should go and what should stay but if they're just selling it, what they doing with that money?"

Dague says he would love to see a lower tax bill but says until he sees that lower tax bill he expects to keep seeing his fire department in his community. Amanda Wolfe on the other hand, says she is willing to pay.

"I feel like the only place you shouldn't downsize is the fire department." "I don't mind paying a little extra money to keep things afloat, like the fire department," said Amanda Wolfe, St. Joseph Township resident.

At this point we still don't really know what residents could save in total. The trustee, Richard Uhrick, hasn't answered those questions for Indiana's NewsCenter. We do know each household has paid around $70 per year to fund the cost for the full time firefighters. They were let go in late January. Those positions were approved in this years budget.

Right now the residents pay about $150 in total for their fire protection. That figure includes the cost of the full time firefighters who were let go.

Although residents and the fire chief are upset the trustee is well within his rights to do what he's doing.

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