City, township officials will study GFD needs

Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Bill Newgent

Greencastle Fire Department officials are hoping for $450,000 to replace a fire engine that is nearly 40 years old.

What they gained from a meeting between city and township officials Tuesday night was the promise of more meetings.

Members of the fire department, Greencastle City Council, Greencastle Township Advisory Board, Greencastle Board of Works, Friends of the Greencastle Fire Department and Mayor Nancy Michael met Tuesday night for a roundtable discussion on funding for the fire department.

A new fire engine is only one of several expenses that fire officials are hoping to impress upon city and township officials as they prepare to begin discussions for their 2008 budgets.

Tuesday evening's meeting at the Greencastle Fire Department ended with board members deciding, not to approve the funding, but to form a committee to discuss the issues further.

Fire Chief Bill Newgent said the fire department needs to replace a 1971 fire engine that, based on his description, seems to be costing the city more money than it's worth.

The engine was refurbished in 1991 at a cost of $100,000 and since that time is averaging $3,000 a year to maintain, Newgent said.

The fire department spent $16,000 last year alone to replace the brakes, a pump and do some rear end work on the truck. Newgent said the truck has a trade-in value of $10,000.

"We're having extreme issues of getting parts to repair it," Newgent said of the truck.

Additionally, the truck is in violation of standards set forth by the National Fire Protection Association.

Newgent is asking to replace the truck in the next two years. He said it takes about nine months from the time an order is placed for a custom fire engine to be built and delivered.

The city is asking Greencastle Township Trustee Thelma Bumgardner to appropriate $275,000, over a period of two years, to go toward the purchase of the new fire engine. The city, in turn, is proposing to contribute $175,000 for its share.

"We feel that's a reasonable expense to come and ask for," Michael said.

Bumgardner appeared to question the township's share during the meeting, at which time Michael pointed out additional costs that the city is going to cover.

The fire department's 1986 Sutphen aerial truck needs to be refurbished which, according to Newgent, will cost $248,000. A new truck would cost more than $1 million.

Mayor Michael said DePauw University has agreed to partner with the city to refurbish the aerial truck, offering to chip in $100,000 with the city to make up the rest.

Requests for money aside, neither city or township officials seemed ready to write a check Tuesday night. Both sides say they are strapped for cash and need more time to consider their options for coming up with the money.

The city has $184,000 in its Cumulative Capital Fire fund, which can be used for fire equipment.

The township, as of December of last year, had around $100,000 in a fund for fire equipment.

Prior to last year, the township was required, by contract, to contribute $20,000 a year to the equipment fund, but the city and township reached an agreement to allow Bumgardner to choose the amount.

Last year Bumgardner reduced the contribution to $5,000, stating that she was following orders by the state to reduce her budget.

The township pays $40,000 a year for fire protection from GFD.

Near the end of the meeting, Newgent said he needs a commitment for the money by June or July in order to have the new truck within the next 24 months.

Michael said she hopes the matter of the replacement fire engine can be settled first, to be followed by the committee to discuss the long-range needs of the fire department.

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