By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — The Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Board focused on the future with discussions on the territory’s 2022 budget during a meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 3.
WWFT’s budgets are separated into four funds: operating, equipment replacement, fire pension and hazardous materials response.
In total, the fire territory’s operating fund is $5,521,806, which is roughly a 23% increase from the 2021 fund. WWFT Chief Mike Wilson and Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said a majority of these increases are related to pension payment and the possibility of four new hires.
Thallemer said roughly half of the $1.1 million increase is because the WWFT budget has to allow for a pension payment in the coming year.
“Pension was paid last year out of the pension fund and reduced the fire territory’s budget by $475,000,” said Thallemer. “This year, the pension board elected not to do that. So that expense is back in the budget.”
“The proposed budget is $5.5 million and personnel is $5 million of that,” said Wilson. “So it’s roughly $500,000 to operate the fire department over a year.”
“Last year we had to make some cuts,” said Thallemer. “But everything that’s been presented in this budget reflects the department and the direction of the department.”
Board Member Brandon Schmitt said that if any budgetary cuts are made, he hopes it doesn’t affect personnel. He elaborated on a July 26 fire on Fort Wayne Street in which a man was rescued from an apartment building and flown to a burn center. Schmitt said ‘B’ shift, on duty at the time of the fire, is short-staffed.
“We had a fire officer who had to make the choice to enter that second story, with the first story completely engulfed in flames, by himself, because people were yelling ‘There’s kids in the second floor,'” said Schmitt. “Technically he shouldn’t be doing that, but do we tell that family ‘We’re short on people so we’re going to have to wait.’ That officer wasn’t willing to do that and he risked a lot. We got to get people on that truck so we don’t have to have firefighters face that situation again. If anything gets cut, I hope it’s not personnel because they’re short.”
Thallemer also commended WWFT’s quick response in rescuing the man from the fire.
“Our guys reacted with more precision and more professionalism,” said Thallemer. “They saved a gentleman’s life in a quick, short order. There was a significant amount of teamwork that was demonstrated that night. Thankfully, they don’t have to do that very often (rescuing people from fires). But that training that’s done…what I’ve learned is it really provides muscle memory that when they get called on a situation and time is of the essence, that training kicks in and it made a life-saving difference. When that happens, our guys are ready and I’m very proud of that.”
The fire territory’s budgets will be presented to the Warsaw Common Council on Aug. 16.
In other business, EMS Chief Chris Fancil said the K21 Health Foundation has agreed to enter a three-year grant totaling $30,000 for Autopulse device repairs and replacement. Autopulse devices are mechanical CPR devices. Fancil asked for permission to apply for the grant on behalf of the county fire association. He said K21 was hesitant on the grant’s initial presentation, which focused on funding extended warranty plans for all of the county’s Autopulse devices.
“They’ve granted us $30,000 to basically be the warranty for the Autopulses for the county,” said Fancil. “If we have a maintenance issue, if we have one go down, if we have a battery go bad or a charger go bad, they have that $30,000 set back to pay for those to be fixed or to be replaced.”
The proposed agreement will also be presented to the county fire association for approval. WWFT’s board approved Fancil pursuing the grant.
The board’s next meeting is at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7.