SHIPSHEWANA — “We need to move ahead and take charge of this situation,” an obviously irritated Mike Sutter said Thursday immediately following the Town Council’s drastic action to terminate Shipshewana’s fire protection agreement with two of the three townships that its fire department serves.
Council members voted unanimously to accept the town manager’s recommendation to terminate the contracts with Newbury and Clay townships, effective Feb. 28, and institute a yet-to-be-determined user fee system for calls made in the two townships by the Shipshewana Volunteer Fire Department. That would mean that any homeowner or business in those areas calling the department to request fire or emergency medical service runs would be assessed a fee per incident. The fee would even be applied to false alarms.
Greg Guerrettaz of Financial Solutions Inc. of Indianapolis, the town’s financial adviser, said that a typical user fee could be about $2,000. Sutter said it could possibly be higher, adding that the town has until Feb. 28 to come up with a fee schedule.
Sutter told the council that it needs to take strong action because the two townships have refused to renew their contracts with the town after protracted negotiations.
In a statement given to The Goshen News, he said that the proposed 2014 Shipshewana Area Fire Service Agreement was mailed out to all parties two months ago, with a signing deadline of last Friday. Failure to sign could result in fire protection being withdrawn by the end of this month. The pact even included a provision to forgive all previous fire charges levied on property owners in the townships.
Following Thursday’s council meeting, Sutter said that the dispute centers around the townships’ unwillingness to accept increased fees for 2014 that the town is proposing. Newbury was asked to pay $51,188 and Clay $3,083.
He complained that Newbury Township’s assessed valuation of property is particularly able to support its proposed fee.