By Ray Balogh
TIPPECANOE TOWNSHIP — Tippecanoe Township Fire Territory advisory board Wednesday, March 9, approved the go-ahead to pursue two major purchases to advance department operations.
Assistant Chief Dave Rensberger requested an appropriation of $333,121 from the equipment replacement fund to purchase a 2022 or 2023 Ford F-550 4×4 diesel ambulance. Delivery and full payment are not expected for two years.
The department was offered only $15,000 trade-in value for its current ambulance, so it will probably either keep the vehicle as a rescue unit or try to sell it.
The board unanimously approved purchase funds not to exceed the $333,121 amount.
Rensberger also provided an update on the department responders’ fire gear. “We still have three sets of gear we ordered five or six months ago that have not come in yet,” he reported. “We just ordered four more sets,” each of which consists of the well-recognized bunker pants and bulky coat firefighters wear to emergency scenes.
The department responded to 69 emergency calls in February: 52 EMS runs, 15 fire responses and two mutual aid responses to assist firefighters in Noble County to battle fires, “one of which was major,” said Rensberger.
Through February the departments has conducted 152 emergency runs, more than 40 over last year’s analogous year-to-date figure.
Rensberger also expressed the desire to establish a dive team. “We have 10 to 12 people interested in being rescue divers and we have a dive boat. Our divers are certified, but not as rescue divers, so they’ll need training. The DNR will support us wherever they can and Warsaw has a dive team that will come out if requested.”
Tippecanoe Township has more than a dozen lakes and several public access ponds in the game preserve and last year suffered several drownings.
Township Trustee Chris Francis requested approval of a retroactive longevity benefit plan for members of the fire department, who would earn an additional 1 percent, based on staff base pay, for each year they serve in the department.
“Two members would already be maxed out,” he said. “There are several others with some accumulation and five or six within the one-year mark.”
The board unanimously approved the longevity plan, which will begin July 1 of this year.
Francis also discussed the feasibility of purchasing the dilapidated former theater building next to the fire station in downtown North Webster.
The building is mere inches away from the northwest corner of the station and is causing drainage problems, to the detriment of the station.
Rensberger noted the outer walls of the theater building are “cracking and trying to separate,” and is concerned when the walls become too weak to support the roof, they will splay outward, resulting in complete collapse of the structure.
The building was offered for sale at $66,000 12 years ago, but Rensberger stated the owner will sell it to the department for $50,000. Before the purchase, however, the township needs to obtain two appraisals.
“Initially we were going to pay from our rainy day fund, but that money would never be replenished,” said Francis. “So we are asking the money be spent from the equipment replacement fund.”
The financial report distributed at the meeting shows a current balance in the equipment replacement fund of $335,160 and Francis expects that fund to receive another $269,000 this year.
“We will knock down the building, and we’re getting quotes for that,” he said. The board also discussed applying for grants to defray demolition costs.
The board unanimously approved a motion to “continue pursuing purchase of the building after receiving two appraisals, with money from the equipment replacement fund.”
The board will next meet immediately after the 6 p.m. North Webster Town Council meeting Monday, April 18, in the North Webster Community Center, 301 N. Main St.