TERRE HAUTE —
Otter Creek Township officials will conduct a public hearing today on a proposed $1.5 million bond issue to construct a new seven-bay firehouse to replace a current building in North Terre Haute that sits in a flood zone.
The Otter Creek Township Advisory Board and the Otter Creek Building Corp. are scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Sandcut Firehouse, 5970 E. Rio Grande Road. The proposed bond issue would raise property taxes in the township 4 to 5 cents per $100 assessed valuation, said Robert D. Salmon, Otter Creek Township trustee.
Any township taxpayer objecting to the construction of the firehouse must file a remonstrance by Jan. 2. The meeting will provide information about the bond issue and how to object to the project.
The project has at least one Otter Creek farmer upset.
“This is so unfair to the farmers to be taxed on land,” said Jay Dennis, an Otter Creek farmer. “I don’t agree with paying for this from taxes on the land. There are no buildings or anything on most farm land. I think it is unfair because farmers will not receive anything for it.”
If approved by the advisory board and building corporation, a bond sale would be held Jan. 8, Salmon said. Construction bids on the project are scheduled to be received on Monday, and a final budget for the project is expected to be determined by Dec. 11.
“We will know exactly what the bond sale will be on Dec. 11. But, until we know exactly what that is, we are estimating [property taxes would raise] 4 to 5 cents” per $100 assessed valuation, Salmon said.
The bond sale would close on Jan. 22 and the project could then proceed.
If approved, construction could be done in late fall or early winter next year, Salmon said. The new single-story fire station would be located at the corner of Grand and Clinton streets on 4.25 acres of land the township purchased two years ago for the new firehouse, Salmon said.
The steel building, with brick exterior, would have a fire engine bay area that would be 80 feet by 80 feet and an administrative/living area of 50 feet by 90 feet. That area would contain offices, kitchen, a bunk room, a training room and a laundry room.
“We are running close to 700 fire runs a year and we are getting to the point where, some time in the future, we are trying to go to full-time [fire department] personnel in Otter Creek Township. There is no sense in building something that is outdated when you move into it. We are building for the present and the future, not just the present,” Salmon said.
Earlier this year, plans to create a new fire protection district, in a proposed merger between Otter Creek and Nevins Townships, were put on hold after the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance denied a tax levy and equipment replacement fund and said the townships failed to establish a legal fire protection territory.
The state ruled an analysis report did not meet legal requirements. Salmon said Nevins Township officials have since withdrew its interest in a future fire protection district.
A new fire station was planned with or without the fire protection district, Salmon said.
The township’s current fire station at 3200 Park Ave., constructed in the 1960s, rests in a flood zone and has been flooded twice since 1993, Salmon said. A new location would prevent any damage to firefighting equipment and a fire station from a flood.
Otter Creek Volunteer Fire Department has 48 volunteer firefighters and operates from three buildings — Sandcut, Burnett and North Terre Haute. The township currently leases those sites, Salmon said, but the township would own the proposed new firehouse.
“I believe this will benefit the residents of Otter Creek directly,” Salmon said. “We pay county taxes that may or may not benefit you and your neighbor. With this, it will benefit you and your neighbor directly. We are hoping to have better response times” as well as potentially lowering insurance costs with any improved fire rating, he said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.