Town Council rejects fire contract

The proposed contract would cost Churubusco Town taxpayers $45,914 for 2011. This figure includes an increase of $7,000 for the south side annexation, which the Town expected. However, Council members said they do not agree with the $7,613 charge for upgrades to radios that will be used by the Fire Department. Last year’s fire contract cost the town $31,185.

Noting that the Churubusco Police Department assists the County on calls, Council member John Hart jokingly said, “Should we charge them for the use of our radios?”

Last year, fire runs in Town accounted for 35% of the total fire runs, while 44% were in Smith Township. 

From January through October 2010, fire runs in Town accounted for 38%. Smith Township made up 39%, Eel River Township (a.k.a. Northwest Fire Territory) 12% and Green Township 29%. 

The Smith Township Fire Department budget is comprised of money paid by Smith Township taxpayers and fire protection contracts with the Town of Churubusco, Northwest Fire Territory (Eel River Township) and Green Township, according to Smith Township Trustee Patty Amber, who was contacted via email.  Amber said that fire protection contracts are “essentially based on the percentage of runs made in those areas.” 

Council members Hart and Frank Kessler, along with Town Marshal Chad Fulkerson, agreed that most of the fire runs in town are actually medical runs that the Fire Department responds to as well. 

“There are very few fire runs in town,” Hart said.

Town Clerk/Treasurer Gerri Johnson said in addition to paying the agreed upon contract amount each year, the Town picks up the tab for utilities and maintenance of the building in which the Smith Township Fire Department is housed. The Fire Department leases the building from the Town for $1 per year, based on a 1987 ordinance. The Town paid $3,100 last year for new heaters in the building and paid an average of $6450 per year in utilities over the past three years.

All three Council members said they were trying to keep the taxpayers in mind in their decision regarding the contract. Council President Kessler said the Fire Department had $192,692 in its funds (general fire fighting fund and cumulative fund) that the taxpayers already paid for at the beginning of 2010. 

“I don’t feel our taxpayers are being treated fairly,” Kessler said.

Kessler said he disagrees with paying for the radios and also the fact that the other three entities (Smith and Green Townships and Eel River) that are serviced by the Fire Department do not help pay for the utilities and maintenance of the building. 

Kessler did, however, emphasize that the Town has no problem with the actual service provided by the Smith Township Fire Department. 

“It’s a situation where we need to come to terms that are agreeable and just for both parties,” he said.

Council member Viv Sade motioned to reject the fire contract as written and postpone the item for further discussion to possibly “tweak” the contract, saying that she had the interest of taxpayers in mind. Kessler said he would communicate the Council’s action to the Township and go from there. Kessler mentioned earlier in the discussion that Smith Township officials feel the contract is fair and they will not accept revisions. 

In other Council news:

The Council unanimously approved Ordinance 2010-01 to allow additional appropriations for the Town Park in the amount of $18,274. Park Supervisor Rick Krider said he has cut employees’ hours and took up the slack himself to offset the budget cut of $13,000 this year. Kessler said the money was available, but the Park needed the approval of the Council to access the funds.

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