The Putnam County Board of Commissioners heard concerns during Monday night's meeting from Van Bibber Lake Volunteer Fire Department and residents of Clinton Township about the building of a new fire station by the Walnut Creek Fire Protection District.
Mindy Jackman, Van Bibber Fire Department's attorney, informed the commissioners that Van Bibber was a part of the Walnut Creek Fire District. There have been constant problems between Van Bibber and the three board members.
One of the biggest problems is that the board has increased the price to build a new fire station on land purchased next to the Van Bibber Lake Conservancy, which is not very far from the original fire station. Jackman said, Van Bibber firefighters have told the board members "on numerous occasions that it's not even what they need, it's not what they want, and it's not where it needs to be placed."
This new fire station could create huge tax issues, opponents say.
Van Bibber Fire Dept. President Bill Neal said the district has increased the price of the new fire station from $340,000 to $540,000. Neal also informed the commissioners that the plans for the building were taken to Midland Co-Op and received a bid to build the building for $117,400. Another company gave a bid for $190,000.
With the increase in cost of the new station, this will put the district into debt for 12 years, Near said.
Jackman informed the commissioners that Van Bibber has brought several options to the board, but these options are being pushed aside. One such option was to remodel the existing fire station for $25,000 and build an additional station over in the middle of the township for one of the bid prices.
Al Williams informed the commissioners that before he got into insurance, he constructed buildings like fire houses and knew all the equipment firefighters have to deal with. Williams told Neal that his estimates were too low because they would be figured as farm buildings.
"Three years ago, I offered to the board of Bainbridge (Walnut Creek Fire Protection District) to help them turn key their own building at no cost to me at all," said Williams.
Williams said the board did not want anything to do with it.
Residents of Van Bibber Lake Estates and Clinton Township were given the opportunity to speak their minds about the fire station. Sheila Green said they (the residents outside Van Bibber Lake Estates) need something out there in case there ever was something that did happen, Dale Cantonwine said, "As a tax payer in Clinton Township, if we can build a fire house for the figures that Bill gave or as Mr. Williams said needs to be increased just a little bit, but considerable, less than what the Bainbridge [Walnut Creek Fire Protection District] board is saying. I don't want to spend that extra money Denny."
Larry Miller informed the commissioners that the board was wanting to build the fire station on a dead-end road, with one way in and one way out.
Dennis O'Hair, who lives 100 yards from the center of Clinton Township, agrees that there are problems with the board and that the fire station should not be put on a dead-end road. But he said that Van Bibber needs to work with Bainbridge Fire Dept.
Commissioner Gene Beck said in reference to the township lines, "I think they ought to do away with the lines."
According to a state statute, the board members of a fire protection district must have fire and medical knowledge in order to be on the board. As it stands, only one board member has previous knowledge. Van Bibber is wanting the commissioners to call the board members and attend some of these meetings to better assess the situation.
The commissioners informed the representatives that they have no mechanism to remove board members or stop the building from being built. County Attorney Scott Hoff told Van Bibber their next step was to take legal action.
In other matters, the commissioners heard from Judge Matthew Headly and Judge Robert Lowe about the need for a new court room.
Lowe informed the commissioners that the two courts, circuit and superior, were doing the work of three courts. From 1978 to 2005, there has been a 73 percent increase in the number of cases filed.
Headly told the commissioners that there are eight counties with higher caseloads than Putnam County. Of those eight, four have received authorization from the Legislature for additional courts within the next couple of years.
According to Lowe another courtroom, along with a judge and personnel, is needed to get the cases flowing.
They are proposing the creation of a committee to assist in the process of coming up with a plan. This committee will consist of the judges, prosecutor, clerk-elect, sheriff, a commissioner, a county councilman and the county attorney.
The commissioners appreciated that Lowe and Headly were getting the ball rolling. Kristina Warren agreed to represent the commissioners on the committee.
Lowe also proposed in his budget to add a full-time reporter/bailiff to his court. Both he and Headly lost their part-time workers, and Lowe feels that by having an additional employee in his court, he will be able to assist Headly with evening out the caseloads.
This employee will later be moved to the new court once the decision has been finalized.
Headly is not asking for any additional personnel.
The commissioners informed Lowe and Headly that their decision would depend on budget request numbers for 2007.
In other business, the commissioners:
--Approved 3-0 to a bid from Trussler Construction for $85,352 to work on Bridge 600.
--Approved 3-0 a need for two kennel inspectors from the Humane Society. Jo Anne Cole and Tammy Gardner were nominated for the position.
--Viewed the new draft of the Putnam County Animal Control Ordinance. This draft was supported by the hunters. Sheriff Mark Frisbie wrote a good portion of the ordinance and Judge Lowe and Tim Bookwalter looked over it. The ordinance will have to be advertised for 21 days before the commissioners can vote on it.
--Added Comprehensive Services to Economic Development Income Tax, EDIT, Plan with the amount of $1,000 to the list of three entities that were added back on the EDIT Plan. The commissioners then approved the EDIT Plan with a balance of $9,169.93 3-0.
--Received the 2005-06 annual report from Jamie France, executive director of the Putnam County Community Corrections. The commissioners informed France that they had not received any complaints and were pleased with the work.
--Approved a contract for Robbie Cudnik with a company willing to create new county maps 3-0. Cudnik will also be using her plat money to create the maps.
--Approved a mutual aid agreement with Geographical Information System and Task Force 7, 3-0.
--Tabled the issue of allowing BroadReach to use the tunnel under the courthouse to lay a connection for internet, cable TV, or telephone for the 911 dispatch office. The issue was tabled for the next meeting due to a need to talk with the city about going under the streets.
The next commissioners meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Putnam County Courthouse Annex.