NORTH WEBSTER — Ten years of study has gone into the proposed North Webster-Tippecanoe Township Fire Protection Territory. No final decision has been made and three tentatively scheduled public hearings have been postponed until further notice.
Staffing is the main problem facing the department.
The governmental units of Tippecanoe Township and the town of North Webster would form another governmental unit with the township being the provider unit. The resulting fire territory would have its own board with representatives from both the township and town, as well as another member jointly agreed upon.
The closest examples of this type of fire and EMS departments are Warsaw-Wayne Township Fire Territory and Turkey Creek Fire Territory that includes that township and the town of Syracuse.
“The vision is to look into the future, anticipate what will be needed and to keep fire and EMS locally managed. We have a total of eight employees including myself and there are 24 shifts to fill monthly,” stated North Webster-Tippecanoe Township Fire Chief Jeremy Likens.
The township board consisting of Jim Rhodes, Ed Clayton and Jim Smith along with Tippecanoe Township Trustee Chris Francis hired Baker, Tilly, Virchow, Krause LLP, formerly H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, to conduct a feasibility study on how to best give the best fire and EMS service to township residents at the most reasonable cost. The results came back with the suggestion of forming a fire territory.
The current personnel are all cross trained in firefighting and as medics or emergency medical technicians. “The department is in good shape on equipment but we have one ambulance out of two that is not in use due to lack of personnel,” explained Francis. “When we initially looked at projected costs given us by Baker Tilly, we went into cost cutting mode immediately. We want to provide the best service at the least cost to taxpayers.”
The current arrangement of the fire department and EMS is under Tippecanoe Township rule. The town of North Webster chips in $30,000 annually. Taxes to support it are collected from all township property owners and distributed by the state twice per year.
With the increase in summer population due to the three lake systems in the township, it becomes necessary to have more people on duty during April through September. During the last daytime fire, only four volunteers were able to respond according to Likens and Francis.