Center Township Fire Department
We were lucky.
Had not been for the tragedy at the Indiana State Fair, Delaware County may not be having this discussion. The grandstands are reported to be at least 60 years old…did anyone think it may be high time for replacement? At the very least, regular inspections of an aging structure should have been considered.
In October 2011, the grandstands WERE inspected. Major structural support problems were reported. Some of the wooden seating had deteriorated and the announcer’s booth was not attached to the metal structure. Instead was supported by wood planks.
December 1, 2011, the Muncie Star newspaper reported the grandstands had serious defects. Jim Mansfield, Fair Board president, estimated the cost of replacement to be $900,000.00. Apparently the decades old grandstand can’t be repaired.
How to fund it with a county that is cash-strapped? This is where it gets interesting.
Jane Lasater, Fair Board vice president, in a private meeting with Commissioner Todd Donati and others, brought up increasing the food and beverage tax. With a sunset clause, of course. At first, it was reported as Donati who suggested the tax increase. He quickly denied it and pointed to Lasater as the brainchild of the increase. Lasater cited Donati’s proposal for a combined animal shelter and a $3 million dollar bond for Muncie to reduce the Tuhey Pool debt.
If your head isn’t spinning yet, it should be. A quick note. Why would Donati even suggest a bond for Tuhey? The bond can be paid down or greatly reduced with the money the city has left in her budget. Shouldn’t President Donati be focusing on his responsibilities? One of which is the Delaware County Fair. It appears he has been a little lax in this area.
December 13th, 2011 County Council meeting saw some discussion on the funding of the grandstands.
Although no council member was able to confirm it, the food and beverage tax increase would need to go through the legislators and none were sure the increase would be acceptable. Jane said she spoke with two representatives while in Washington, D.C. Neither were willing to commit. Senator Lugar’s office wasn’t that accommodating and Brad Bookout said the county would be hard pressed to get a grant.
Ron Quakenbush said quite a bit of money was appropriated a few years ago and only repair was new seats. Lasater countered, Michael Denton had inspected the grandstands and the repairs were done based on his recommendations. This was about six years ago.
Lasater said there are only 21 volunteers on the Delaware County Fair Board and none have the time or the experience to fund raise. Therein lies one problem. A couple of simple requests for Band Day denied; a fee for the antique tractors; an increase in parking and you have a recipe for a decrease in attendance and far less revenue.
Not that doubling the parking cost was a poor idea, you do need some attractions that would offset the increase, though.
It’s no longer uncommon to take a tax guzzling entity and turn it into self-sustaining one . Case in point, Prairie Creek Reservoir. You just need the right people in place, someone who can think outside of “taxes” for creative ideas and sources.
Ron was looking like a cat that just ate the bird, when he made the comment…”The fair board is political.” Jane said it wasn’t. Quakenbush stated all the members were appointed by the commissioners. He went on to say when the commissioners took over from the Lion’s Club he predicted the fair would become political. I smiled just a little during the exchange, as Mr. Quakenbush was right on the money.
The County Commissioner’s took over the Delaware County Fair in 2001.
2002 was the year a last-minute switch for fire protection saw Center Township out and Muncie City in. It was also the first time Mayor Dan Canan donated to the fair. $10,000 of EDIT funds. Center Township Trustee, Dick Shirey was in the second year of fire protection after Muncie City handed him a bill for fire service. Nah, no politics there.
After Center Township made arrangements to staff and located extra equipment, Center Township’s Lt. Hackett spoke with fair board member Todd Donati and was told their services were not needed. In the past, the fair had been protected by volunteer fire departments. Center Township was free of charge.
‘We were disappointed,’ Hackett said. ‘I think it politicizes the fair.’
But, all that aside, I think the county is missing the point. Planning and preparing has not been one of their greatest strengths. The grandstands are the best argument to “be prepared”. The stands didn’t deteriorate overnight and no money was ever set aside for needful repairs, let alone any improvements.
Now, we are in crisis mode, yet again. We don’t have any money and a fair board lacking in time and experience to raise money.
Time is running out and from the county council meeting, an increase in Food and Beverage tax is highly unlikely to succeed. Maybe it’s time to tap into the rainy day funds. Or a bond? Perhaps Mayor Elect Dennis Tyler will share the EDIT funds. How about closing the Delaware County Building on Thursdays, too. Just some ideas to consider. (Tongue in cheek!)
Regardless, this isn’t the first crisis and it won’t be the last.
Month after month Mayor McShurley was hounded at every Chat With The Mayor on when she was going to apply for the SAFER Grant. Even when the grant was not open for applications, it was the same song and dance.
We were told by the supporters of the grant there would be no cost, and we found that to not be entirely true. There is a cost. Muncie must have the front money and then be reimbursed. It could take months to get paid by the Federal Government. The Federal Government could find we are in violation and yank the funds. The grant could require payback of monies or even be blacklisted from grants.
Back in June 2009, a plan was brought to the eyes of the public. A group of citizens formed the Community Action Committee or CAC. This group put together a plan to keep Muncie Fire Department at its current level. The first item listed is a consolidation of Center Township Fire Department to include the building and the equipment. What wasn’t include was the ten paid firefighters and the 40 odd volunteers. They were out.
The CAC proposal included other items, but for this topic we will stick with Center Township.
In the proposal, Center Township would pay Muncie $300,000 a year until the trucks were paid off and thereafter $400,000. A copy was presented to Center Township Trustee, Kay Walker.
By the time the proposal was presented it was too late to realize any savings and the MFD experienced the first lay-off in the history of Muncie.
November came and still the question lingered on would the Mayor apply? There was much rumbling among the supporters of the grant. The deadline to apply was extended until January. FInally, Kay Walker came to the table. The agreement she made with the City was very close to what mirrored the CAC proposal she received in June, 2009.
With this as a main turning point, the Mayor and Walker came to an agreement.
The Star Press reported it as breaking news on January 15th, 2010 and followed up with articles all saying the the same thing.
- The move to apply for the grant was tied to Center Township turning its firefighting force over to the city, and in turn paying Muncie $250,000 a year through 2011 and then $400,000 a year after that for fire protection. Earlier news articles said the city would save $750,000 over the next two years and then $700,000 thereafter because of the Center Township agreement and concessions from the fire union.5-5-10
- “As part of a pending agreement, Center Township would agree to dismantle its fire department and pay the city $250,000 a year for fire protection in unincorporated areas.
Beginning in 2012 the township would begin paying $400,000.” 1-15-10
- “Perhaps of even greater significance, Center Township agreed to dismantle its fire department and pay Muncie for fire protection — $250,000 a year through 2011 and then $400,000 a year thereafter. “1-19-10
We should have paid a little more attention to the one word which as of today, has shed a light on the agreement.
The word for today is “Pending“.
You see, it appears that there was no agreement in writing, no legal document to seal the deal. Making this a verbal agreement and nothing more. I believe everyone thought it was a done deal, even some which were involved in the CAC before it was disbanded.
July 16, 2010, the newspaper reports that Kay Walker is no longer interested in the original verbal agreement and instead lists some very contradictory reasons. Now, Walker wants the agreement to go only until 2011, the year the current mayoral term ends. Second, she is concerned about the firetrucks and the payment.
Seven months to the day, and this is the first we hear of her concerns. Odd she would stay silent for so long.
Here is what was quoted in today’s paper.
- “Walker said that’s not the case. The township is still making payments on the equipment, she said.
- “”They can’t keep the equipment,”” the trustee said. “That’s Center Township’s equipment.””
Muncie can not afford to take on the debt of their trucks, which is why the lower yearly payments were considered. Muncie City is part of Center Township. Our tax bills show a line item of how much the city pays to the twp. In effect, Muncie has helped pay for the trucks.
The real kick to all of this is why after seven months has Walker suddenly come forward with this change of heart? If this was given to her in a proposal in June ’09, and again discussed in January ’10, why on July 16th, 2010 is this become an issue?
It’s a wash, it will always be a wash. Let Kay Walker and Center Township keep their fire department intact, and let Chief Burcham, the MFD and Mayor McShurley go back to the drawing board. Working with Walker will be a waste of time and energy. Move on.
The Mayor did her part, in good faith negotiated an agreement, filed the grant and it was awarded. Now, Walker has changed her mind. That is definitely her prerogative, since we are not legally bound to any agreement.
Let’s remove CTR Twp. from the mix and quit wasting time with a dead-end agreement.
And if you see Kay Walker on the street, ask her why it took seven months for her to come forward when it should have been addressed much earlier than one month before the MFD was to return back to work.
Oh, yes, don’t forget it is an election year. What political plan does she and Democrat Headquarters have up their sleeve on this one?
Voter her out of office. And remember if she should set her sights on the Mayor seat, look for an increase in taxes to fund what we can not afford. She will embrace LOIT, not as a much-needed revenue for the citizens of Muncie, but for her pet projects.
Mark my words.
Update: Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal (commonly known as CDCPTR) has put together a preliminary cost analysis. Please go to the PAGES section of the blog.
This is the proposal put together by a group in hopes of creating cost savings measures for the Muncie Fire Department.
Members of the committe:
Jim Riggle – Community relations manager with AEP and spokesperson for CAC
Nora Powell – Board Member with East Central Neighborhood Association
Bill Smith – local business man
Dan Allen – retiring president of Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce
Brenda Brumfield – director of community and government relations for Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce
Mike Whited – President Muncie Fire Department Local 1348
Allison Quirk – President of Muncie City Council Democrat
Kay Walker – Center Township Trustee Democrat
Star Press Article Saturday June 6, 2009 click here for update
Mystery plan revealed. click here