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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Townships join forces to create fire territory

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The people of Jackson Township, Owen County and Cass Township, Clay County have decided to join forces and unite in the formation of a fire territory.

The ordinance has been signed by the Cass County Advisory Board president and Cass Township trustee. It will be sent to the Clay County Auditor and then to the state of Indiana, before becoming effective sometime next year.

A fire territory is a governmental fire protection agency that is allowed to cross county lines. It is hoped the result will be greater fire protection, more powerful fire fighting capabilities and more funding.

Jackson Township of Ow-en County does not have a volunteer fire department in all of its 36-square mile area.

The 12-square mile area of Cass Township has one, the Poland Community Volunteer Fire Department Inc.

For several years, Po-land's department has held a contract with Jackson Township for fire protection and accident response in the total 48 square miles, according to Craig Nees, director and safety officer for the Poland department.

"We make about 180 runs a year. About 75-80 percent of those are in Owen County," he said.

Nees said that the Poland fire department must currently drive around 8 1/2 miles to reach the farthest point of Jackson Township, an amount of time that could be detrimental to a structure's damage or a person's life.

The approved fire territory will draw funding from property taxes in the two townships that will lead to the 2007 opening of a new fire department in Cunot of Jackson Township, about 6 miles from the Poland station. The new department will increase response time to residents on the east side of the township, manpower and funding.

Poland's fire department will assist the new Cunot station, but Cunot will be toned out as first responder and Poland will help depending on the severity of the situation.

The property tax increase should not concern taxpayers, because the decrease in homeowner's insurance will more than offset that increase, Nees said.

"(Jackson Township taxpayers) are going to cover about 3/4 of the cost, which I think is a fair assessment since they'll get about 3/4 of the service," he said.

Jackson Township will be in total control of the budget and operation, but the taxpayers of the two counties will control the need for the territory.

According to Nees if the taxpayers decide that the territory is no longer needed, the process can be reversed.

"It is not very often you can set up a government unit that is controlled by the taxpayers," said Nees.

The process for the fire territory began a few years ago when the first fire territory in Indiana was created, the Brownsburg Territory.

Poland's interest was sparked because of the lack of funding available for not-for-profit volunteer departments and also the need for consolidation and control in the two townships.

He said that small not-for-profit volunteer fire departments face the threat of going extinct. By joining forces and funding with other counties, the departments like Poland can stay alive.

"You are going to be seeing more of this taking place in rural areas," Nees said.



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