Heltonville Community expresses concern about fire and ambulance coverage
Updated: Nov 3
HELTONVILLE - NOVEMBER 3, 2023 - The Heltonville community expressed their concerns about fire protection and ambulance coverage during a public meeting Thursday night.
Photo: Many wore red t-shirts supporting the Pleasant Run Township VFD who served Lawrence County for 62 years
The meeting was the first meeting the taxpayers was made aware of with a public announcement by township elected leaders.
Photo: Lawrence County Sheriffs Department provided security following a large turnout to a public meeting held at the Old Heltonville Gym
This is despite several meetings that was held by the township trustee and advisory board about the Pleasant Run Township Volunteer Fire Department.
The public was not made aware of any previous township meetings prior to Thursday.
This includes the township official's removal of the Pleasant Run Township Volunteer Fire Department by the Lawrence County 911 dispatch in 2022.
The township officials contracted with nearby Marshal Township and Shawswick Township Volunteer Fire Department to provide fire protection for a short time.
The Pleasant Run Township VFD having a valid contract the township elected officials breached their contract and putting the health and safety of the community at risk.
The township never advising taxpayers of their unilateral actions or the fire department itself.
The only way the fire department learned of this was when an emergency was dispatched to a neighboring fire department.
The Pleasant Run Township was quickly reinstated after the former Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham learned of the mistake by Pleasant Run Township Trustee Michael Nicholson.
By law township officials only have to place their meeting announcements at a location the public can view.
The public notices are posted at the Life Missions Ministries Church and township office operated by Pleasant Run Township Trustee Michael Nicholson.
None of the township meetings are posted on social media or other means.
The Indiana legislature has not put any additional requirements on township government.
Photo: Pleasant Run Township officials talk with Millard Jones President Lawrence County Fire Territory
Pleasant Run Township elected officials told those attending that the public had concerns about the operations of the department including fire department response times.
It should be noted, because every fire department in the Lawrence County, except City of Bedford is volunteer the response times are longer because emergency personnel respond from their homes or business.
The City of Bedford has a staffing of 9 firefighters on duty at all times, with a agreement their staffing can go down to eight. During county extrications those staffing levels are reduced to 5-6 with on call firefighters available.
This has been the trend throughout Indiana since the inception of the volunteer fire service.
Every firefighter in Indiana must meet certification before they can fight fire. The requirement was implemented since 1988.
The township elected officials also asked those in attendance to ask questions and express concerns about the fire department and the proposed fire territory.
The Pleasant Run Township elected officials brought Millard Jones, president of the newly formed Lawrence County Fire Territory to moderate the meeting.
Pleasant Run Township elected officials have been engaged with the Lawrence County Fire Territory and the benefit of joining the new fire territory for several months. The cost of a feasibility study has not been determined at this time.
The meeting itself got heated at moments with both sides for and against the fire department expressing their opinions.
Township officials stated they will renew the contract with the fire department in 2024 but consider going with the Lawrence County Fire Territory in 2025. Other plans in the future are constructing a fire station on Indiana State Road 446.
Photo: The Pleasant Run Township elected leaders want to build a new modern facility on Indiana State Road 446
Township elected leaders told the public that the Pleasant Run Township will remain a fire department and the equipment will remain the fire departments which is owned by the non-profit.
However, the Lawrence County Fire Territory would just pay the bills of the Pleasant RUN department however Standard Operating Procedures will be adopted by the Fire Chief Bobby Brown Fire Chief of the Lawrence County Fire Territory.
The Lawrence County Fire Territory Fire Chief Bobby Brown made no promises of staffing in Heltonville with 24/7 ambulance or firefighters.
The Lawrence County Fire Territory has a staffing of three personnel 24 hours and 7 days a week which include two to staff an ambulance and one firefighter.
The fire territory still relies on Shawswick Volunteer firefighters to respond to fires. The equipment is owned and operated by the Shawswick Township Volunteer Fire Department.
The Lawrence County Fire Territory does not staff the Leesville Fire Station even though Guthrie Township taxpayers pay more. The service for Guthrie Township has remained the same for their community with the establishment of the fire territory.
The public told both the Pleasant Run Township Fire Department and elected officials they need to provide better communication to one another. A lot of the issues is because a lack of communications between both groups.
The public also stated the township has failed to properly advertise their meetings.
Pleasant Run Township elected leaders assured the public they will keep them informed and tell them when the public meetings are held.