Argos Fire Protection TerritoryThursday evening residents of the Town of Argos and Green and Walnut Township had the opportunity to get information on the proposed Fire Protection Territory that will give them more stable fire and EMS services.

Mark VanDerWeele, Economic Development Director for Argos explained the reason for considering this option.  He told those gathered at the fire house that EMS staffing has been a big problem.  He said in 2019 they had 232 calls and missed 53.  Last year there were 244 calls for EMS and the missed 19.  While steps have been taken to try and correct the issue, the current funding makes it challenging.

The three governing bodies: the Town of Argos, Walnut Twp. And Green Twp. have been working on this issue for a couple of years.  They’ve talked with outside agencies about providing coverage and found they weren’t interested because of the call volume or were more expensive.  The solution they came up with was to hire paid EMS responders to help fill shifts, primarily day shifts when volunteers weren’t available.

VanDerWeele said the solution is to hire three full-time EMT’s but funding those positions and the cost for equipment.  He said the EMS budget has risen 45% from 2019 to the 2021 budget, due to staffing and funding shortages.

Steve Wilhelm, the Walnut Township Trustee discussed the issue with the Department of Local Government Finance who didn’t provide any assistance.  He called the ITA (Indiana Township Assoc.) and asked what other’s in the state were doing and the only alternative was to create a Fire Territory. He said this is a way to raise taxes to provide adequate services to the residents of Argos and the townships.  While the additional taxes will pay for full-time EMT’s and needed equipment, it was clearly stated the fire service will remain a volunteer service.

VanDerWeele told those gathered in the public meeting that they’ve put funds into the service by paying for EMS but they’ve had to forgo some projects they had planned to make it work.  While it did help it can be sustained without this new funding.

Baker Tilly, financial consultants presented a number of charts showing the effects the new tax would have on residents in Argos and those in the township.

Susan Cowen from Baker Tilly discussed the funding for the Fire Territory.  Those in Argos will see a 4.8% decrease in their taxes, but she said not all types of property will see that decrease.  Those living in Green Township can expect an increase of 21.5% the first year, because of an error there was no tax for fire protection included in this year’s budget. Those living in Walnut Township will see an increase of roughly 11.9% for the first year.

For farmland, commercial and other property in Green Township, taxes would increase 21.5 percent in the first year.  Taxes will slightly decrease in year two of the Fire Territory and raise slightly from .2 to .3 percent.

Last week’s meeting was the second information session for the public.  No decisions were made.  A third and final public hearing will be held on Thursday, March 4th at 6:30 p.m. in the fire house.

After the public portion of the meeting the Walnut and Green Township Advisory Board and the Argos Town Council will vote on the decision to create a Fire Protection Territory.   If everyone is in favor it will take a few months for the Fire Protection Advisory Board to be created, prepare a budget and prepare standard operating procedures for approval by the Argos Town Council who will be the lead for the territory.