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Firefighters hope leadership change will stop merger

The Corydon Volunteer Fire Dept. has a new chief and two assistant chiefs following a special meeting of the members Thursday night. The firefighters hope the change in leadership will allow them to continue doing what they love ‘ and are trained ‘ to do, fight fires.
Kevin Barrow, chief the past three years, resigned after an article in last week’s Corydon Democrat quoted Harrison Township Trustee Cecil Trobaugh as saying there has been ‘trouble with leadership’ of the Corydon VFD. Barrow, who said he was tired of the politics involved, opted to resign in the best interest of the department.
William Jennings, a Harrison County Hospital paramedic with eight years of service on the Sellersburg fire department, is the new chief. Jason Bottles was elected first assistant, and Kurt Davidson is second assistant.
The Corydon firefighters recently learned that the Corydon Town Council is considering having the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. provide fire protection services for the town.
Jennings and other Corydon firefighters attended Monday night’s meeting of the town council.
The topic of fire protection started when Trustee Roy McKim and town attorney Ronald W. Simpson began discussing the need to place a value on the equipment the town would give to the township fire department if an ordinance is passed allowing the township to provide fire protection services.
Wayne Miller, a Corydon firefighter when similar talks took place six years ago, asked how such an ordinance would benefit the Town of Corydon and its taxpayers.
Town council president Fred Cammack said it was more economical to have one fire operation, rather than two only half a mile apart, with an obvious savings on insurance rates. Harrison Township has a new firehouse and better equipment, he said, including a ladder truck that was purchased last year.
Based on an evaluation in April by the Insurance Services Offices (ISO), the Corydon VFD has an ISO rating of 7. The department’s score of 38.84 percent was 1.16 percent below what was needed for a 6 rating. (ISO ratings are used in determining homeowner and business insurance rates.)
In a letter dated April 11, the Public Protection Dept. wrote, ‘We are very pleased to report that the resulting classification is a Class 7. This is an improvement from the former classification of Class 8. That means (Corydon’s) fire suppression are improving in the face of the demands of a changing environment.’
After inquiring how they could improve their rating even more, Corydon firefighters learned that an additional mini-pumper would help. They completed the necessary paperwork for a 2003 FEMA Firefighting Grant, applying for $170,700. A 10-percent match, or $17,070, would have been required by the Town of Corydon if the department had received the grant.
Firefighters contend that Cammack initially gave them the OK to submit the application but later said the town council had changed its mind.
McKim said Monday night that the ISO inspector was not impressed with the firefighters’ training record.
Training was another sore point among the Corydon firefighters after last week’s article. As required by the ISO, members of the Corydon VFD train at least 12 hours annually, according to Ron Melton, who until last week, was an assistant chief.
Melton said yesterday classes vary from year to year often include sessions for fighting mobile home fires, breathing apparatus, mock drills and equipment training. They also complete an annual session on hazardous materials.
‘Why are you not willing to work with the fire department?’ Melton angrily asked Cammack and the other council members Monday night.
Jennings, the new chief, took another tact. He said to the board, ‘We’d like to begin an exchange of views and opinions’ with the town.
He said that his first responsibility is the safety of the townspeople, enabling them to go to sleep at night knowing they are safe.
‘If you are willing to work with us, I will work with you,’ Jennings said.
McKim emphasized again that the ‘merger’ is only in the discussion stage, although the trustees are now studying a proposal with the township fire department. Cammack said the trustees could possibly adopt an ordinance in two weeks that would switch fire protection services from Corydon VFD to Harrison Township. He said he didn’t know if the issue would be discussed, unless ‘something new’ was brought up.
Yesterday, Simpson provided this newspaper with copies of the ordinances the town is considering, as well as a resolution for the township to adopt stating the same thing. If passed, the change would be effective July 1.
Simpson said the agreement provides for the transfer of Corydon VFD’s trucks and equipment to the Harrison Township VFD.
A special public meeting was tentatively set Monday night, after the regular town board meeting adjourned, to consider the adoption of the ordinances and the contract. Simpson said that meeting was set for Monday, June 30.