Posted on

Fire district approved for Elizabeth

Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Dept. officials were tasked last month by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners with the collection of at least 340 or so signatures from property owners in Posey and Taylor townships before the fire district request would be considered.
Just 2-1/2 weeks later, fire department members reached ‘ and surpassed ‘ that total with ease.
Monday night, Scott Hutt, Elizabeth VFD chief, reported to the commissioners they had collected 550 signatures.
Commissioner Jim Klinstiver, who lamented that the tax increase will hurt farmers because of their property value, made the motion to approve.
‘I told you if you got 500 (signatures) or more, I’d support you,’ Klinstiver said. ‘I will.’
Commissioner George Ethridge said he was going to ‘withhold’ seconding the motion.
Commissioner Kenny Saulman, before seconding, said the department has done what they asked.
‘I just hope it doesn’t go crazy,’ Saulman said of the increased tax. ‘That’s what everybody’s scared of.’
The motion was approved 3-0.
Last month, after approving the fire district for Harrison Township, the commissioners said they wanted to see signatures collected in Posey and Taylor townships before they would consider approving the request, which will amount to a 12-cent increase per $100,000 of assessed valuation (worst-case scenario).
Hutt said they’d like to have two paid firefighters working Monday through Friday during regular business working hours.
‘During the week is where we fall short,’ Hutt said.
The two township trustee advisory boards, Posey and Taylor, which comprise the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Dept. area, as well as the Elizabeth Town Council, passed ordinances in favor of a fire district, meaning signatures were not required to be collected.
But, Ethridge said he had a problem with that and wanted the residents to have a say.
The board also discussed Horseshoe Southern Indiana, located in Bridgeport in Posey Township, which will see a tax increase on its property.
Hutt said they were unable to speak with Horseshoe officials.
Elizabeth responds to all fires, wrecks and other emergencies at Horseshoe, even though Horseshoe contracts with the New Albany Fire Dept. for fire protection.
‘We have to respond,’ Hutt said. ‘Sometimes we’re walking out the door (at Horseshoe) and they’re (New Albany) just now getting there.’
The commissioners asked if the creation of the fire district will result in the department no longer needing money from the county’s riverboat gentleman’s agreement, which amounts to $500,000 per year spread between the departments as the fire chiefs’ association sees fit.
Elizabeth officials would not go that far, but said, eventually, the need for the riverboat money would hopefully lessen.
Hutt said they need to ‘catch up’ with equipment.
The fire district’s budget will be subject to the county council.
In other business, the commissioners made the following appointments, following recommendations from the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept., to the Harrison Township fire district board: Jeff Windell, David Wiley, Gerald Saulman, Rodney Cecil and Robert Davis.
The board also moved to give the maximum amount of money from Harrison-Crawford State Forest timber sales to each fire department ($2,896 each) for a total of $23,168, which amounts to half of the total. The other half will go directly into the Harrison County General Fund.
Monday evening marked the final regularly scheduled commissioners’ meeting for Ethridge, who did not seek a second four-year term.
‘It’s really been an enjoyment to work with you,’ Saulman said. ‘You’ll be missed.’
Ethridge said he’s learned a lot in the last four years.
‘I’m very grateful to be able to work with you two (Saulman and Klinstiver),’ he said.
Charlie Crawford was elected to take over the District 1. His four-year term will begin Jan. 1.
‘I wish you the best,’ Ethridge said to Crawford, who was in attendance. ‘I think you’ll do a fantastic job.’