• Bill Raines

Lawrence County Volunteer Fire Departments a $64 Million Dollar Savings to Taxpayers

LAWRENCE COUNTY - ( March 30, 2022) - A third party study conducted by the Indiana Volunteer Firefighter's Association reports that Lawrence County's volunteer fire departments provide a $64 Million dollar savings to taxpayers.


This information was cited by Bobby Brown, Fire Chief Shawswick Township Volunteer Fire Department during the Lawrence County Council meeting; Tuesday night.


Volunteer fire departments across the state provide a $8 billion dollar savings to taxpayers across the State of Indiana.


Jason Lewis Fire Chief Marshall Township VFD and career firefighter explains the plight of Lawrence County Volunteer Fire Departments


However, Lawrence County government has not been very friendly in helping the nine volunteer fire departments in the county.


Fire chiefs Jason Lewis, Marshall Township Paul Gillespie, Marion Township and Bobby Brown, Shawswick Township appeared before the Lawrence County Council Tuesday night to bring awareness of the run volume, services provided, and current plight the local fire departments are in.


Guthrie Township and Williams Volunteer Fire Department disbanded over the last couple years due to shortages of manpower, and ability to continue the service needed to provide 24/7 coverage.


Williams Volunteer Fire Department disbanded which was formed in 1961, Indian Creek Township now has taken over fire protection services


Since January 1, 2022 until March 29, 2022 Lawrence County nine volunteer fire departments made a combined total of 911 emergency calls for service, with 70 percent of those calls for emergency medical service calls.


Indian Creek and Oolitic Volunteer Firefighters battle a mobile home fire earlier this week


The purpose of coming to the meeting was ask county officials to be a consideration when grant funding such as the CARES Act and American Rescue Funds that the volunteer fire service be asked to take part in the available funds.


The public safety income tax was passed in 2009, over the objections of Lawrence County taxpayers. The local income tax funds went to Bedford Police Department, Bedford Fire Department, and Lawrence County Sheriff's Department.


Lawrence County Council members Mike Branham, Gene McCracken, Jim Edwards, Joe Ross and Ross Jean voted in favor of the .75 percent local option income tax. Mike Branham telling the capacity filled crowd .25 of the tax will be devoted to public safety issues, and .50 would go towards property tax relief.


200 taxpayers across the county filled the courtroom to hear the presentation of adopting the tax, while most opposed the tax; a week before being adopted.


The local income tax now generates over $4.4 Million dollars in revenue. The county tax supports nine public safety positions for the city of Bedford.


The extrication contract Lawrence County pays the City of Bedford was used to support two paid firefighter positions. The tax is essentially a double tax on services that already should be provided by municipal government.


In a 5-2 vote back in August, 2011 the Lawrence County Council finally voted to allow the volunteer fire departments get some of the revenue from the $4.4 Million. Lawrence County Council members Jim Edwards and Mike Branham opposed the plan to support the volunteer firefighters, and Mike Wright, Mark Mathias, Gene McCracken, Keith Dillman and Jason Mullis supported the volunteer fire departments.


In that 2009, meeting Luke Kluender appeared before the Lawrence County Council meeting and expressed concerns over how the public safety portion of the new local option income tax is distributed.


During this time, he Lawrence County Council told the volunteer fire departments they did not have control over how that money was distributed. This same response was given when the volunteer fire departments was looked over in the CARES Act distribution of $1.4 Million and $8.8 Million of the American Rescue Funds the county is expected to receive.


However, in August 2011, Luke Kluender returned again to the Lawrence County Council who has argued since 2009, to help get the volunteer what they deemed was their share in LOIT funds. Kluender at the time contended that county residents pay for LOIT their fire department should reap the benefits of the LOIT tax.


Current Public Safety funds given to volunteer fire departments:

  • Indian Creek VFD- $5,828.33

  • Marion Township VFD - $18,546.20

  • Marshall Township VFD - $8,557.10

  • Perry Township VFD - $3,985.61

  • Pleasant Run Township VFD - $5,840.84

  • Shawswick Township VFD - $37,031.43

  • Huron VFD - $3,700

Oolitic Volunteer Fire Department has not received any LOIT funding for public safety since this was adopted by the Lawrence County Council. Oolitc has again asked the town council for public safety funds, however the clerk-treasurer indicated that the LOIT funding for the town was discontinued.


Township trustees and advisory boards are the legal government agency responsible for funding fire departments in the State of Indiana.


Town and city governments are the legal government agency for funding their police and fire departments.


The volunteer fire departments township funding helps the fire departments pay insurance, utilities, and some equipment needs. However, with rising insurance costs, and malpractice insurance eats up over 50 percent of the budgets of the fire departments. The remainder of the costs for the fire departments are raised through fundraising efforts.


Volunteer fire departments are waiting as much as 30 Minutes for out of county ambulances to transport patients to the hospital


The volunteer fire department first responders and EMT's are now waiting on out of county ambulances to arrive and transport patients. This means fire departments can be on the scene as much as thirty minutes before an ambulance arrives.


This has caused some of the medical equipment that the fire department uses not being replaced which has increased the cost to the departments.


The volunteer fire departments have agreed to come on a quarter basis and give the county council an update on run volume, and needs of the departments.


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Lawrence County Commissioners who attended Tuesday night's meeting informed the county council that they will be working together on the $8.8 ARP funds.


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" We have nothing against the volunteer fire departments, but the guidance changed on the way the CARES -Act money could be distributed," said Dustin Gabhart Lawrence County Commissioner.


Only Seals Ambulance Service and Lawrence County Sheriff's Department was only public safety agency given CARES Act funds.


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