By Phoebe Muthart
NORTH WEBSTER — North Webster Town Council held a budget workshop Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 4, at the town hall annex. The council discussed the fire department’s budget for 2021 as well as the EMS budget.
During the workshop the council discussed manpower, equipment and other services the fire department offers. Fire Chief Jeremy Likens was at the meeting. He chimed in stating he needs the appropriate fund to operate the department. He said run volumes have picked up.
“I’m looking at the future, too,” he said, adding he’s looking 10 to 20 years down the road. “Manpower will always be an issue.”
The possibility of merging with Syracuse-Turkey Creek Fire Department was discussed. The major benefit would be the “resources,” said Likens. “We should look into it. We use it 95% of the time. It’s definitely something to look at.”
“We need to do what’s best for our people,” said Chris Francis, Tippecanoe Township Trustee. “We have major tax issues coming up.”
He said there are three options for the fire department. The first option is make no changes. The second option is to hire two additional staff members making three staff 24 hours, seven days a week. The third is possibly forming a fire territory.
Ambulance service is a priority too. The service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “We are locked in at the maximum levy based on staff.”
At issue is the $30,000 the council usually gives the fire department. Likens and Francis said the funds are necessary. Francis said for 2021, “We are not short but we are tight.”
The $30,000 is especially needed for daytime services for EMS during the day. The department currently has one ambulance at all times. This is based on the town’s population. However, the population increases in the summer.
Betsy Luce, clerk-treasurer, said she’s not sure where the money would come from. “We are elected to be good stewards, and we’ve always been conservative,” she said, adding an additional police officer is being hired.
Lisa Strombeck asked the other members and Luce if the $30,000 is possible.
“I don’t think so, no,” said council member David Waliczek.
“If those funds are not possible, we won’t have extra manpower Monday through Friday, starting in January,” Francis said.
The council insists it does not want to raise taxes if it doesn’t have to.
“Our tax rate is one of the lowest in the county,” said Luce. “We don’t have a cumulative fund either.”
The council stressed the importance of doing what the residents want. “Our people deserve it,” said Luce. “The town and the township should work together.”
The council made no decisions at the budget workshop.