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Town OKs New Fire Contract
December 10, 2009 - The Carthage Town Council voted unanimously last week in favor of a one-year extension to its current contract with the Carthage Volunteer Fire Department. The action followed a lengthy discussion at the council’s Dec. 3 regular monthly meeting, and was prompted by the coming expiration at month’s end of the town’s three-year fire protection agreement with the CVFD. The town will pay the CVFD $25,000 for fire protection services in 2009, the same amount it paid this year.
Much of the discussion that took place prior to the council’s vote focused on lingering unanswered questions about the CVFD’s finances. For the second meeting in a row, Council President Rick Bush took the fire department to task for not making available financial records he said are needed to determine if the town is being charged a reasonable amount by the CVFD.
“How do they come up with $25,000 a year?” Bush asked. He said he thought the public and council both had a right to know how that figure was chosen. CVFD President Crystal Trueblood told Bush he could get the CVFD’s records through the county. Bush asked her why the CVFD couldn’t just provide the requested financial information to the town, a question that got no reply.
Bush also told other council members that Carthage Town Marshal Dan Murphy was in the process of getting dispatch records to verify the number of Ripley Township runs CVFD is making outside Carthage compared to runs in town. He asked why Carthage should have to pay $7,000 more a year than Ripley Township if most of the CVFD’s runs are outside the town.
“In my mind,” Bush said, “we’re subsidizing the township.”
Council member Jack Taylor said Mike Erwin, the CVFD’s treasurer/secretary, told him that Ripley Township had given the CVFD about 50 percent more funding than the town of Carthage over the past eight years. He said Erwin told him the township gave the CVFD about $80,000 toward the cost of their fire station, over and above their annual fee for fire protection.
Council Vice President Wanda Henderson, who remarked to Bush, “Where in the heck are you going to get your fire protection if you don’t get it from these folks?” said she wanted to see the CVFD’s yearly budget and any audits. She also said she wanted to review yearly and monthly expense reports and for the CVFD to reveal the source and amounts of all revenue not paid by the town.
Bush had reported at a meeting last month that he and council member Jack Taylor had learned the CVFD had not filed federal tax returns since 2004. Commenting on that issue again at last week’s meeting, he said, “That throws up a flag for me.”
Henderson asked whether the CVFD had thought they were not required to file the tax returns. Taylor said he thought they knew they were supposed to file them, but that there had been an oversight.
In addition to the unanswered financial questions, the CVFD has also not provided the town with a roster of its members. membership. When Taylor asked Trueblood during last week’s meeting if the CVFD would provide the town with a current roster, Trueblood did not answer in the affirmative, but, instead, replied by asking why the town needed that information.
The CVFD’s failure to provide the town with a copy of its current roster appears to violate state statute. In fact, according to IC 36-8-12-2, all members of the CVFD are supposed to be listed on a roster of volunteer firefighters that has been approved by the town council, as well as by Ripley Township’s advisory board, a practice the CVFD has not been following.
Not all of the comments at last week’s meeting were critical of the CVFD. Taylor, who had, along with fellow council member Bill Armstrong, attended the CVFD’s monthly meeting the night before, said, “They’ve really got a good group of people down there. ... They do this type of work for nothing.”
Taylor said he and Armstrong had a “really good ... (and) productive” meeting with CVFD members. In terms of the CVFD’s financial needs, Taylor said, “They are in need of all they can get to do what they do. ... We all should try to support these guys.”
When the council voted on the one-year extension last week, it also aproved three minor changes that Taylor said the CVFD requested. The council agreed to remove provisions from the contract dealing with a 1985 fire truck, emergency medical services and hydrant flushing.
The contract extension will now go to the CVFD for its approval. While the fire chief and board of directors still need to review the proposed one-year extension, Trueblood told the council that Erwin, the CVFD’s treasurer/secretary, had said he didn’t think there would be any problem.
The next meeting of the Carthage Town Council will be a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 17. The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at Cathage Town Hall, 6 W. First St.
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