Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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September 21, 2013

Richland Township faces fire budget shortfall

North Miami schools could have limited fire coverage next year.

DENVER, Ind. — Richland Township and North Miami Community Schools could have limited fire protection next year due to state budget cuts and an increased contract price with the Denver Volunteer Fire Department that services the township.

Richland Township Trustee Mary Boswell said the state reduced the township’s fire protection budget from $20,000 to $14,000 this year. At the same time, she said, the town of Denver increased its contract rate from around $15,000 to over $17,000 in 2014 to provide fire protection to the township.

If the township can’t afford to pay for the contract next year, Boswell said the only fire protection would come from Roann, which is 9 miles away from North Miami schools. She said the township has paid Roann $4,500 for fire protection for the last three years without an increase.

Denver is less than 3 miles away from the schools, which significantly reduces response times in case of emergencies.

“My major concern is the schools,” Boswell said. “We want to protect our children. Physically, Roann just isn’t close enough to take care of the whole township.”

Boswell said the township doesn’t have enough money currently to pay this year’s contracts with Denver and Roann. She said she requested $9,000 more from the state for fire protection in the township’s 2014 proposed budget, increasing it from $14,000 to $23,000.

If the state approves the increase, Boswell said she can pay for both contracts. She said she’s informed Denver the township may not be able to pay the total contract price this year.

Boswell said she also has applied for an emergency fire loan from the state for $16,500 to pay for next year’s contracts.

If the township doesn’t receive the grant, she said she would negotiate with Denver for a reduced contract rate, but she said town officials told her services would be limited if the rate were reduced.

Officials in Denver could not be reached for comment.

To generate more revenue, Boswell said she requested the state approve a higher tax rate in the township’s 2014 budget to help pay for fire protection.

“It’s a really unfortunate situation, but I know we’re not the only township dealing with a situation like this,” she said.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.

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