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Corydon firefighters not anxious for merger

Corydon firefighters are facing a battle ‘ again ‘ that they won’t be able to fight with water.
The Corydon Volunteer Fire Dept. may cease to exist, if the town council has its way. The council would then contract with the Harrison Township VFD to provide fire protection for the town.
Town council president Fred Cammack said Monday that town attorney Ronald W. Simpson has been asked to ‘research the procedure’ for merging the departments.
‘We don’t know what’s involved,’ Cammack said.
A possible merger of the departments has been talked about ‘off and on’ for several years, Cammack said, with the last serious talks in 1997.
‘There’s been a lot of pressure from the public about why we’re maintaining two fire departments less than a mile apart,’ Cammack said about the recent plans.
Harrison Township VFD built a new firehouse a few years ago, relocating from an old concrete block building just west of S.R. 135 on S.R. 62 to a new brick fire station on Old S.R. 135 just north of downtown Corydon. The Corydon fire station is two blocks from the town square.
Harrison Township Trustee Cecil Trobaugh, who oversees the township fire department, confirmed that the town may contract with the township for fire protection services. But he indicated a merger could happen soon.
‘We’re not in planning stage,’ he said. ‘We’re further along than that.’
Corydon firefighters resisted a merger in 1997, and they’re not pleased with the possibility of losing their department now.
Chief Kevin Barrow said his department was not approached by Cammack or any town council member about the plans.
The Corydon firefighters have been operating as a department that will continue for some time. Ironically, each of the 18 firefighters received new turnout gear ‘ coats, pants, boots, gloves and helmets ‘ Friday evening. The gear was purchased with $20,000 the department received from the Harrison County Council and $5,037 from the Town of Corydon.
Barrow contends that, legally, the two departments can’t merge.
‘Both departments, Corydon and Harrison Township, would have to be dissolved and a new department formed to be a true merger,’ he said, based on information he receivd from an attorney the fire department contacted.
A dissolution could take four to six months, he said.
Trobaugh has a target date of July 1 in order to get the necessary paperwork done in time for the fire rates to be set for next year.
In the long run, Trobaugh expects insurance rates for Corydon homeowners and business owners to decrease, because the township fire department has a better ISO rating.
‘The town was a six but went to a seven this past year,’ Trobaugh said, adding that township and town rates should eventually be a six.
The Corydon VFD has provided fire protection for the town since the fire department was organized through a verbal agreement several decades ago.
‘We’ve never had a (written) contract,’ said Barrow, adding that the town department is incorporated.
Cammack said the town is considering contracting with Harrison Township because ‘It’s not cost-effective to have two department. We have so few runs and a small tax base,’ he said. ‘The town has very few actual structural fires.’
While a fee has not yet been determined, Cammack and Trobaugh indicated the contract would be about what the town budgets now for the fire department, about $6,000. The only additional expense the township should see is an increase in the amount of insurance it pays for the firefighters because Trobaugh would add about 13 firefighters to the department.
Trobaugh said the town council, which has had ‘trouble with leadership’ of the Corydon VFD, approached him and his advisory board about providing services.
The township has 22 firefighters and some associate members. The department has six fire trucks, including a ladder truck.
The town would sign over its fire equipment to the township. Trobaugh said one of town fire trucks would probably be converted into a tanker to haul water.
Division of equipment could become sticky. Barrow said firefighters have purchased much of the town’s equipment ‘ turn-out gear, hoses, fans and the ‘Jaws of Life’ ‘ with grant money and fund-raising proceeds.
‘The town can only give the township 20 percent of our turn-out gear’ because that’s the percentage of the equipment the town purchased, he said. ‘The township would have to spend between $60,000 and $70,000 to re-equip our trucks.’
Trobaugh said the township firefighters are ‘really trained’ and have ‘a new attitude.’
‘If someone really wants to be a fireman, why not be at a new house where they have training?’ he asked.
Applicants to HTVFD would be screened by a membership committee and would be required to have a certain number of hours of training, as well as ladder and haz-mat training. New members would be on probation for one year.
Trobaugh is also investigating the possibility of paid firefighters, personnel who would be at the station for runs and help maintain equipment.
Before any action is taken, it will be discussed in a public meeting, Cammack said. The town council meets the second and fourth Mondays at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
‘If and when (a merger takes place), it will be in the best interest of the community,’ Cammack said.