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Planning for future should include paid firefighters

Volunteers are great. Without them, communities would have two choices: do without the services provided by people who give countless hours to make things happen or find a way to fund certain projects and programs deemed vital to the area.
Harrison County is no exception when it comes to having a seemingly endless supply of volunteers who are there when needed.
Imagine for a moment that all those people we’ve come to depend on to just show up and get things done are temporarily indisposed ‘ on vacation, sick, taking care of personal business ‘ or otherwise just not available.
For the most part, those groups that rely heavily on volunteers schedule events in advance, so those unpaid workers can try to plan their schedules accordingly.
But in Harrison County, there is one large group of volunteers who rarely know when their services will be needed, and their absence could be a matter of life and death. They are our volunteer firefighters.
With changes in state law a few years ago, firefighters respond to other things besides fires. They also are needed to assist with crashes and medical runs, which account for more of their time than fires.
There’s been talk for quite some time about a paid fire department in the Corydon area. Now, the seeds are being sown in anticipation of making that a reality.
Harrison Township Trustee Cecil Trobaugh, who is responsible for making sure fire protection is available in the township that houses the county seat as well as the bulk of the county’s population, briefly outlined a plan to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners that could have paid firefighters in place in five years.
What he envisions is, first, an expansion of the firehouse, which will be paid for next year, thus allowing the tax revenue that has been directed to the department for several years to help foot the bill for the $680,000 project, with $300,000 coming from the county.
Second, when that project is paid off in 2012, the tax revenue could be shifted towards salaries of five to seven paid firefighters. The fire department would still rely on volunteers, but as a paid department, Harrison Township residents would know that trained personnel would be ready to respond when the need arises.
Many of the fire chiefs of the county’s nine volunteer departments have talked about how difficult it’s become to have enough volunteers who are available, especially during the day, to make runs.
Other communities similar in size to Corydon have had paid fire departments for years. A good example is Salem, which the U.S. Census shows had a population of 14,808 in 2000. That’s just 511 more people than recorded in the 47112 area during that same census. Salem also uses volunteer firefighters in addition to its paid employees.
We applaud Trobaugh and his advisory board for planning for the future. The time has come ‘ in reality, it’s overdue ‘ for a paid department to service the hub of Harrison County. And we appreciate their efforts at looking how to make this happen without putting a tax burden on the citizens.
In the meantime, we encourage everyone to thank those volunteers who risk their lives to put out fires and assist those who are ill or have been involved in a crash.
While you’re at it, thank those other volunteers who give their time and talents for their worthy causes.
We would hate to think what our communities would be like without them.