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Council makes no decision about fire department funding

The Harrison County Council Monday night, with a narrow vote, tabled a request of $100,000 associated with the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Dept. building project and the Taylor Township substation project.
The council, through its yearly gentleman’s agreement with the fire chiefs’ association, has $500,000 available to spend for fire service in the county. It already allocated $200,000 to Posey Township for the Elizabeth firehouse project and $200,000 to Taylor Township for the substation project.
The remaining $100,000 has yet to be disbursed.
Elizabeth representatives wanted to see the council take action on the $100,000 so they could move forward with the awarding of a bid to construction company AML Inc. The total bid cost is $373,800, and the work will add five additional bays to the existing firehouse, add metal furring to existing concrete block, remove the existing metal roof, add new metal siding and roofing to solve water leaks and replace forced air heating with radiant heat tube.
The $100,000 was previously tabled so the council could see the bids for each project and then make a decision on how to split the money.
The bids for the firehouse at Taylor Township, located along Rabbit Hash Road near the intersection with Rosewood Road, won’t be opened until Monday.
Elizabeth officials plan to borrow funding to complete the project, but they were hoping to know exactly how much they would need following the appropriation of the $100,000.
Earlier this year, council chairman Gary Davis proposed $65,000 for Elizabeth and $35,000 for Taylor Township.
Taylor Township Trustee Wayne Gettelfinger said he was comfortable with the split.
Councilman Sam Day said he thinks the Taylor Township structure should be cut from three to two bays, since there’s only one firefighter in Taylor Township, and use the difference to help bring the Elizabeth station up to standards.
‘I hate to push these guys back … I was glad to see bids come in,’ Councilman Kyle Nix said before making the motion to table the issue until the next meeting.
He said he’s heard the Taylor Township substation could come in close to $300,000 and there’s just too much estimation to make a decision at the meeting.
‘We owe it to the process,’ he said.
Councilwoman Holli Castetter seconded, and Davis and Councilwoman Sherry Brown joined in support of tabling the matter, meaning it passed 4-3.
Commissioner Jim Klinstiver said he’s concerned because he’s paying the highest possible insurance rate on his buildings because there’s no firehouse in Taylor Township.
‘It looks like to me we could resolve this thing,’ Councilman Richard Gerdon said.
Day, who along with Castetter and Nix, took office Jan. 1, said it’s about the safety of the people and their high insurance rates.
‘And we keep tabling it,’ he said. ‘I don’t understand. I know I’m new to this, but I don’t understand.’
In other business, a proposal to contract with former Councilman Phil Smith to assist in preparing the 2016 county budget was tabled. Davis came up with the idea to bring in Smith to help with the ‘comprehensive EXCEL spreadsheet he developed during his four years as a councilmember.’
The proposed contracted amount was $2,500.
Davis estimated using Smith would cut, budget work sessions needed by about half.
Nix said he didn’t care how long it took to complete the budget, it was their elected duty to do so and it wouldn’t be fair to the taxpayers to pay someone else to help.
‘Is this something the auditor can’t provide for us?’ Gerdon asked.
Auditor Karen Engleman said she has all the information and can provide what is needed.
‘It kind of puts egg on our face to hire somebody for something we ought to be doing ourselves,’ Councilman Jim Heitkemper said.
Both Castetter and Nix said they’d be willing to learn the process for next year and beyond.
‘I have no doubt it would make it smoother, easier and quicker,’ Gerdon said of hiring Smith. ‘I just don’t know if it’s fair to the taxpayer.’
Gerdon also said he thought the $2,500 figure was too high.
Davis said he was recommending hiring Smith for the budget.
‘You haven’t been doing anything I’ve recommended lately, so you don’t have to do this,’ he said to fellow council members. ‘That doesn’t mean you were right. In fact, I would argue that you weren’t right. You’ve already done more damage to Harrison County in one meeting than I could do in 16 years.’
The council’s next regular meeting will be Monday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon.