Leo-Cedarville Town Council President John Eastes is hoping to reenter negotiations with other northeast Allen County entities regarding the formation of a new fire territory. However, this time, he wants to bring Perry Township to the table.

Leo-Cedarville currently receives fire and EMS services through a contract with Northeast Allen County Fire and EMS, a nonprofit department comprised of volunteer, part-time and full-time firefighters and paramedics, which has struggled to recruit volunteers in recent years. As a means of seeking better, more affordable protection in the future, Leo-Cedarville engaged last year in discussions with the town of Grabill, Cedar Creek Township and Springfield Township regarding the possible formation of a collective fire territory with Northeast Fire and EMS continuing to provide protection but with additional resources, including more full-time staff. Leo ultimately stepped away from those discussions when the other entities refused to sign an inter-local agreement presented by Eastes, which called for the newly established fire department to be municipally owned with one entity serving as provider unit and controlling the funding and equipment.

Following a meeting Oct. 28, Perry Township Trustee Eric Tippmann issued a letter to Leo-Cedarville’s Town Council formally inviting the town to join Huntertown in the formation of an expanded Northwest Fire Territory, which currently includes Perry and Eel River townships and is served by the Huntertown Fire Department. That letter detailed plans to build a second Perry Township fire station at the corner of Hursh and Tonkel Roads, which will eventually support the Huntertown Fire Department and could serve as a response point for runs out to Leo-Cedarville.

During a meeting Dec. 1, Eastes expressed an interest in bringing together six entities — Leo-Cedarville, Grabill, Cedar Creek Township, Springfield Township, Perry Township and Milan Township — to come up with a plan for a combined fire territory that includes aspects of both the northeast and northwest plans.

“I believe firmly that we need a summit … of all of the parties that could be participants in a broader fire territory that could make it more affordable,” Eastes said. “… If we could get everyone in the same place that would be interested in examining whether or not there could be a more affordable way to take the two fire territory models that are there now and merge concepts in some fashion that would become affordable — more than they currently are — I believe that number could go down, and that would be a win-win for everyone.”

Eastes has previously stated he believes a partnership with the Northwest Fire Territory poses an opportunity to reduce the tax rate for Leo-Cedarville residents. In his letter to the town in November, Tippmann said he believes the new tax rate associated with two fire stations would be $0.08-$0.095 per $100 of assessed value.

However, to get to that point, Leo-Cedarville would have to successfully annex land that borders Perry Township — an area bordered by Tonkel Road to the west, Hursh Road to the south and Schlatter Road to the north.

“For annexation to make sense to me personally, it has to make sense not just for our residents, but it also has to make sense, I think, for the potential future constituents that would live in our town,” Eastes said during the Dec. 1 Leo-Cedarville Town Council meeting. “… I’m not shutting the door on the option with Northeast Fire and EMS, I’m not shutting the door with Perry Township. I am always going to be looking for the most affordable option that will give us the best possible solution for the best possible price.”

Eastes said he would like to invite the six entities to meet in a public forum sometime next year.

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