Future of Ossian Fire Dept. in Question

By Megan Trent

July 25, 2010 Updated Jul 25, 2010 at 6:32 PM EDT

OSSIAN, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - The town of Ossian is in a bitter dispute with Jefferson Township over funding for the Ossian Fire Department. If recent meetings are any indication, the fire department's contract to provide fire coverage for the township next year may not be renewed.

Assistant Chief of the Ossian Fire Department, Mike Marquardt, says the township's contract was signed in 1996 and is outdated - forcing Ossian residents to pay around $93,000 a year for fire protection while the township pays only $35,000. The town wants to create a "fire territory" in which property taxes for the township would increase and the town's would decrease. Marquardt says this would even out the amount each pays for fire protection.

Marquardt is quick to caution township residents opposed to paying more in taxes that the increase would be a minor one. He says taxes on a $100,000 home would only increase by $8 or $10.

"The township can't currently raise their tax on fire protection," says Marquardt. "The state stopped the ability for them to appeal it, appeal the amount of money they're getting. The state said your out is to create a fire territory where you can control it yourself. You have the first year to set your tax rates and that's it."

Township residents say this would create a double tax, but Marquardt says firefighters have talked with state authorities, and it is their understanding that would be corrected when the budgets are redrawn.

"The township is telling us there is going to be a double tax if they created a fire territory so they could be working equally with the town as far as funds. What we're being told is for the first six months, maybe a year, taxes would still be in place until taxes were redone as a territory, and then it would be down to one."

Marquardt says if the fire department's contract is not renewed by December 31, the township would be required under the law to find fire protection elsewhere. He says they do own part of the fire equipment, so they could either begin offering their own fire services in the area or find some other avenue.

Indiana's NewsCenter will continue to follow this story and keep you informed as the debate over fire protection in Jefferson Township continues.

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