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Harrison fire district readies for ‘plan B’

Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Jon Saulman, on behalf of the newly-formed Harrison Township Fire District, requested permission Monday night from the Harrison County Council for the district to borrow funding, in the amount of $200,000, from a financial institution to get through the first half of 2018.
Saulman also requested (last week) the funding as a loan from the county, but the board of commissioners tabled the request.
‘This is our plan B,’ Saulman said.
The ‘plan A’ request will be discussed again at the commissioners’ meeting Monday night at 7.
The district will begin the year with a zero cash balance.
‘Ultimately, we would prefer for the tax advance to come through the county,’ Saulman said. ‘In the event that it does not, the fire district has passed a resolution to seek bids for a tax anticipation loan.’
The district will receive its first tax settlement in July, at which point four full-time firefighters will be hired, and the loan ‘ whether to the county or a financial institution ‘ will be repaid.
The money is needed for operational costs, insurance and any unforeseen expenditures.
‘Hopefully, we don’t have to come anywhere near that much ($200,000),’ Saulman said.
Councilman Kyle Nix asked if the district has approached Harrison Township Trustee Cecil Trobaugh for a low or no-interest loan.
‘The fire district has approached him and requested to have a meeting with him,’ Saulman said. ‘I think it’s happened on two or three occasions they’ve requested, and he’s denied wanting to have any meetings with them. As far as I know, he’s unwilling to talk at this point.
I haven’t seen, the fire district hasn’t seen, a lease or any agreement for the buildings or equipment … As of today’s date, we really don’t have any idea if we’ll have any equipment on Jan. 1.’
Saulman said the district would have to borrow fire equipment if it wasn’t turned over by Jan. 1.
In an interview yesterday (Tuesday), Trobaugh said he would, indeed, turn over all apparatuses and equipment, and he has told the fire department as much.
‘We’re waiting to get the titles,’ he said.
Trobaugh said the trustee’s office will continue to own the buildings and will lease them to the department because, he said, if the district should have issues and fail, fire protection, by state law, falls to the trustee.
‘We don’t want to have to start from scratch,’ he said.
As for the insurance on the building, Trobaugh said, if the county approves a $200,000 loan for the district, he’s going to let them pay for it.
He said he operated the fire department for the entire year for $135,000, and they’re asking for $200,000 for the first six months, while at the same time saying nothing is going to change.
‘Why are they asking for so much?’ Trobaugh asked.
Trobaugh also questioned why Saulman was making the requests on behalf of the fire district, since no firefighters can sit on the district board.
As for the trustee’s cumulative fire and fire funds, Trobaugh said he’s been told by the Indiana State Board of Accounts that he cannot transfer that money to the fire district.
‘The commissioners ordered it, but they have no authority over trustees,’ Trobaugh said.
In an email exchange yesterday, Skii Ficklin, communications officer for the state board of accounts, said the following about the issue: ‘When a fire district is created, the township would have passed a resolution. When conducting an engagement, we would review the resolution to see what was approved by the township board in regards to this. There is nothing in statute, that we are aware of, that would not allow the township to transfer money to the district, but it would have to be approved in that resolution.’
Saulman told the council Monday night they hope to be ‘business as usual’ and keep providing fire service at the beginning of the year.
‘I guess there’s nothing really in legislation that says he has to give us anything,’ Saulman said of the township trustee.
Council Chair Gary Davis said he thought Trobaugh should at least give some of the money collected in the past for fire protection to the fire district.
‘But that hasn’t happened,’ he said. ‘And apparently isn’t happening.’
The council unanimously (6-0, Councilwoman Jennie Capelle was absent) gave its approval for the district to seek a loan.
In other matters, Davis led a moment of silence for the late Carl Duley, a former county councilman, who died Friday.
‘I served several years with Carl,’ Davis said. ‘He was a good councilman and a good friend.’
Davis also wished Nix well as he recovers from back surgery on Dec. 5.
The council’s next meeting, the last of 2017, will be Wednesday, Dec. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon.

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