News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 20, 2013

Otter Creek, Nevins township fire departments exploring merger

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Nevins Township and Otter Creek Township fire departments are proposing to merge and create a new fire protection area to be called the Otter Creek Fire Protection Territory.

A public meeting on the merger is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Nevins Township Firehouse in Fontanet. A second public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 6 at the Sandcut Firehouse.

Tonight’s meeting will focus on property taxes, response times and training for firefighters.

The proposed fire protection territory would have an estimated budget of $770,300 plus an additional $187,873 for its equipment replacement fund, according to an analysis of the proposed fire protection territory from the Indianapolis auditing company Crowe Horwath.

The boundaries of the new fire territory would be the boundaries of Nevins and Otter Creek townships. The estimated property tax rate of the fire territory per $100 assessed valuation is 0.2432, according to Crowe Horwath.

The fire territory would provide nine full-time firefighters on three rotating 24-hour shifts of three firefighters per shift, in addition to volunteer firefighters.

The full-time firefighters are estimated to save 3 to 8 minutes on most responses. The firefighters can immediately start toward a fire instead of waiting for volunteers to respond first to a fire station.

The fire territory would be better able to financially provide for adequate training and safety equipment for firefighters, merger supporters said.

The new department could respond with four engines, a rapid-rescue team and a support vehicle to all structure fires in the territory on a first-alarm response. Additionally, three tankers could respond.

The merger could allow the addition of two new fire stations to replace the existing Otter Creek and Nevins facilities, both of which are too small, energy inefficient and are prone to flooding, organizers said.

James Koch, who owns 800 acres of farm land in Nevins Township, disagrees.

“I have mixed feelings on it. We need a fire department. I don’t think we have the capability to keep one in Nevins Township,” Koch said. “But, a new firehouse in Fontanet is money that is unnecessary. If we merge, there is nothing wrong with the firehouse we have in Fontanet just to store trucks in it.”

Koch said a new fire station in Otter Creek Township is already in the works. “That happens regardless of the [fire protection] territory,” he said.

Koch said he is concerned that a new fire territory would be exempt from property tax levy controls for the first three years. Koch said people can still learn about the proposed territory and ask questions at the public meetings.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@