Leo-Cedarville approved a contract with the newly formed Northeast Allen County Fire and EMS Territory on Jan. 5, after more than a year’s worth of negotiations with other county entities and Northeast Allen County Fire and EMS.
The town will ultimately continue to receive fire and EMS services from its current provider.
The decision comes nearly a year and a half after the town opted to bow out of discussions with the town of Grabill and Cedar Creek and Springfield townships regarding the formation of the new territory, which currently provides fire and EMS services for roughly 17,000 people in those three areas.
Council members John Eastes, Ray Pulver, Greg Peck and Scott Connally voted unanimously to approve the contract, despite differences in opinion regarding its cost.
The newly formed fire territory includes staff at three stations in east Allen County, which are overseen by Northeast Allen County Fire and EMS. Over the years, the department had struggled to recruit volunteers, and sought ways to bring in more money to hire paid staff. That eventually led to the formation of the new territory last summer.
Leo-Cedarville’s current contract with the department is for $60,000, while the new contract will cost the town $125,000 annually. That is a significant decrease from a contract for roughly $280,000 previously presented to the town on behalf of the newly formed territory.
Eastes and Pulver, in particular, have noted at previous council meetings that they intended to explore other avenues for protection, so as to find the most cost-effective solution for taxpayers. That included an offer from Perry Township Trustee Eric Tippmann, who asked the town to join Perry and Eel River townships in their own expanded territory.
During the Jan. 5 council meeting, Eastes said he felt between $80,000 and $90,000 would be a more appropriate cost to the town for protection. He cited concerns that three fire stations could be too costly to staff. Pulver said he would prefer if the territory would agree to split the difference between the proposed amount and the town’s current annual cost of $60,000.
Randy Daniels, the newly appointed chief for the Northeast Allen County Fire and EMS Territory, noted the benefits associated with the increase in costs.
“Starting Jan. 1, we have doubled our staffing with staffing of the Cedar Canyon station around the clock, 24 hours a day — both fire and EMS — as well as the Grabill station that is also staffed with fire and EMS,” Daniels said. “So, in essence, we have doubled our service, not just for Leo-Cedarville but all of the northeast fire district that we cover … We are adding staffing as soon as the Springfield Township, the Harlan station, gets renovations done to it, which we are hoping to be staffing that at the beginning of April at the latest.”
Daniels said fire and EMS staff within the territory’s stations will eventually be four or five times larger than it currently is.
“The more services we provide, unfortunately it does come at a cost, but we’re doubling, tripling, and it’s only doubling what you’re currently paying,” he said.