Lebanon to debate merging of fire departments

LEBANON, Ind. – When a house catches fire in Boone County’s Center Township, the homeowner likely doesn’t care which logo is on the side of the responding fire trucks.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday Lebanon and Center Township residents are invited to City Hall to hear the pros and cons of merging the Center Township Fire Department into the Lebanon City Fire Department.

The safety of 2,000 township citizens and an annual budget of $846,000 are at stake.

“The largest part of the trustee’s budget is fire protection and when you essentially give that responsibility away to another government you’re making one government larger and eliminating the overall need for a separate entity,” said Casey Samson, public information officer for the township department and a candidate for trustee. “They’re advocating for savings for residents that they don’t serve or that they don’t legally cover or are responsible for.”

Lebanon and Center Township have mutual aid agreements where both departments agree to cross jurisdictional lines to respond to a call for help.

“We both serve the same area roughly about 20,000 citizens and I feel like it’s important to have operational continuity between those two departments and essentially operate as one,” said Lebanon Fire Chief Chuck Batts. “I feel like we can do that and save some taxpayer dollars along the way.”

LFD is offering to hire away six CTFD fulltime firefighters and provide coverage to the township for $650,000 annually.

“They would lose 14 dedicated qualified well trained men that serve our township,” said Samson, one of the part time firefighters who would not be offered a job with LFD. “The biggest savings that they’re talking about, $200,000 a year, $155,000 of that is paid to part time employees. That’s a large chunk so what they’re saving is eliminating jobs.

“I think I could speak for just about every public safety official that you can never have enough manpower to do a job.”

CTFD has six pieces of apparatus which Chief Batts said the township will keep along with its fire headquarters.

Batts said the proposal may be offered to the newly elected township supervisor in early 2019 for approval by the three-member township board.

In the past, two current board members have rejected such a plan.