By Matt Getts
ALBION — The Albion Town Council took the first step toward hiring a part-time fire chief and passed its 2018 budget on first reading at its regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 26 at the Albion Municipal Building.
The council voted 4-0 to have the town’s hiring committee to develop a list of qualifications it would like to see in a new part-time chief and to otherwise get the process moving.
The town’s hiring committee includes Clerk-Treasurer Carol Selby, Council president Max Weber, Councilwoman Chris Magnuson and Town Manager Stefen Wynn. A department head from the area of the town that is looking to hire is also normally included, according to Magnuson.
The council asked Fire Chief Brad Rollins, who is a volunteer chief, to meet with his department to come up with its recommendations for representatives on the hiring committee.
The council also passed its budget, a proposed spending plan that call for an almost 10 percent reduction in expenditures compared to the current budget.
Fire Staffing Issue
Additional firefighter staffing is needed for covering the day-time hours.
“The majority of our firefighters work during the day,” Rollins said.
Rollins and firefighter Shane Coney, who was also in attendance at the meeting, said the issue is not aobut getting enough people to come to the scene. Instead, the issue is getting people to the scene more quickly. When it comes to stopping a house fire from getting out of control or rescuing someone, seconds count.
The Town Council had asked for the Fire Department’s input as it mulled over ways to spend its new public-safety tax revenue. Since Jan. 1, the town has been collecting approximately $10,000 each month from the new tax.
The council had voted to allocate 65 percent of the funds (approximately $78,000) to the Fire Department, with the remaining 35 percent ($42,000) going to the Albion Police Department during a special meeting May 31.
In a recommendation to the Town Council received Sept. 12, “The Albion Fire Department came to a consensus to start off with a part-time fire chief and keep the current part-time firefighter in which we already have budgeted,” the recommendation sent to the council states. “If money would allow, we would like to see a third part-time firefighter, making the station manned with three firefighters during the day. If the part-time fire chief position is beneficial, the Albion Volunteer Fire Department’s long-term goal over the next two years would be to have a full-time chief.”
Currently, two volunteer firefighters are paid $11.25 per hour to man the station during daytime hours. Those two firefighters are currently averaging a combined 16 hours per week.
Hiring a part-time chief at 29 hours would not solve the daytime staffing issue, but it would be an important first step.
“We have to start somewhere,” Magnuson said.
Rollins seemed to agree that starting with the part-time chief hire was a good way to start.
Councilman Don Shultz presented four different options, including hiring a part-time chief at 29 hours, another part-time firefighter at $15 per hour and bumping the pay of the other two volunteers to that level.
After discussion, the Town Council voted to proceed with the part-time chief first.
“This is going to be a long process,” Rollins said.
The 2018 overall proposed budget passed Sept. 26 was $4,013,184. The 2017 proposed budget was $4,427,440. It was later certified by the state at $4,426,083.
According to Selby, the 2017 budget included bond proceeds for street improvements that were completed this year. “That is the main reason the 2018 budget is significantly less than the 2017 budget,” Selby said.
The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance still must certify the town’s budget.
The tax rate, as proposed, would be $1.5673 per $100 of assessed valuation for property owners within Albion’s municipal limits.
A public hearing was held during the meeting. No one from the public chose to comment.
Also at the meeting of Sept. 26:
• The council voted to cancel an order for a new leaf collection machine on the grounds the vendor misrepresented the specifications of the machine.
The town thought it had ordered a machine with a four-foot long rubber connection hose, identical to the set-up on the old machine which has become a safety hazard. Instead, the machine was going to have a four-foot steel section.
According to Street Department employee Kevin Todd, the steel section would connect to the town’s truck through an aluminum fixture. The jostling that comes through the collection process would cause the steel to grind against the aluminum collection, leading to damage. A rubber hose would be more flexible, negating the damage, Todd said.
After voting to cancel the original order, the council voted to purchase a leaf collection machine from another vendor for $31,945, contingent upon the receipt of a certified letter sent to the original vendor, cancelling the order.
• The council approved the purchase of 20, 45-minute air bottles by the fire department for $25,823.12. It was the final year of a three-year replacement program for the bottles, which allow firefighters to have breathable air when fighting a fire.
• Albion Chief Deputy Town Marshal Scott Cole told the council the police department had received for free $1,800 worth of portable breath alcohol sensors from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.