Tensions Rise, Trustee in Talks to Contract Fire Protection

By Stephanie Parkinson

October 23, 2012 Updated Oct 23, 2012 at 10:15 PM EDT

St. Joseph Township, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) - Concerned residents and firefighters filled the St. Joseph Township Trustee’s office at the boards meeting Tuesday night. The main topic of discussion was the fate of their fire department.

"The citizens of St. Joe Township are going to get screwed if you have your way," said Christopher Wolf, resident.

"Just as a resident here, I feel safe with them here and I would really like to see it stay," Lori Coleman, resident.

Although concerns were voiced on the fire department's future the primary reason for the meeting was to approve next year's budget. The 2013 budget was approved but one board member still isn't satisfied.

"The residents in the township are very concerned about what's going on. What I think needs to happen is there needs to be more transparency,” said Barry Kunkle, Board Member, St. Joseph Twp. Advisory Board.

Kunkle says he only approved the budget because it saved taxpayers money now by dropping next year tax rate.

"I'm very concerned this could be a short term saving and a long term expense," said Kunkle.

The trustee, Richard Urhick, says it is unknown who will provide fire protection next year. Urhick says he's in talks with Fort Wayne about contracting fire service. He says the move is to save money.

Meanwhile the approved budget adds over $22,000 for fire protection despite more than $100,000 being cut from that budget in the past year. The overall budget was also increased by close to $100,000.

"There needs to be an open communication about what it is we're trying to accomplish, what a new contract would look like, what's been going on with our current fire department, their expenses, their response times, their performance,” said Kunkle.

Kunkle asked the trustee for a deadline on the contract talks with The City of Fort Wayne. No deadline was set. As of now, no contract has been drafted with the City of Fort Wayne and their fire department.

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