Monroe County officials want taxpayers to foot bill for fire, EMS services

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MONROE COUNTY, Ind. (Feb. 23, 2016) -- Residents of northern Monroe County are being asked to pay hundreds more in taxes because local officials say they can't afford fire and EMS services anymore.

Residents of Benton, Washington, and Bloomington Townships would be part of a proposed fire territory. They heard about the proposal at the first of three public meetings Tuesday night.

"Yes, we are asking you to very seriously consider a tax increase," Benton Township Board President Mary McInerney said.

Right now, across those three townships, there is only one fire station with full-time staff. That fire station is in Bloomington Township, which provides services to the other townships for an annual fee.

In Benton Township, a volunteer-only fire station also provides services, but has reported a severe lack of volunteers in recent years. Washington Township has no fire station at all.

Officials also said that the anticipated I-69 extension from Bloomington to Indianapolis will cut two of the townships in half, making it even harder to provide services in a timely manner. Right now, response time is more than 10 minutes on average.

Under the proposal, the maximum average tax increase per household would be an extra $73 in Bloomington Township, $124 in Benton Township, and $148 in Washington Township. Depending on budgets, those numbers could be less each year.

The extra money would fund three full-time firefighters in Bloomington Township and two each in Benton and Washington Townships.

Officials also proposed a lesser budget that would allow for only two firefighters per station.

Residents voiced serious concerns and questions at the meeting. Some told CBS4 that it seems like they have no choice and township officials' minds are made up already.

"We’ve had a problem in Monroe County of people living off the taxpayers too hot and heavy," one resident said.

"What you’re going to see is senior citizens on fixed incomes," another resident said.

Officials are also unsure how much it would cost to build a new fire station in Washington Township and where that would be located.

Two more public meetings are scheduled. The next is on Tuesday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bus Depot, 8111 Lee Paul Road. The final hearing and scheduled vote is Tuesday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bloomington Township Fire Station, 5081 N. Old State Road 37.

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