Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Kirchoffer's Bill to Steal Fire Departments from Townships is SEA 621 All Over Again
Rep. Cindy Kirchoffer of Beech Grove filed a bill that passed the Indiana House which will take the fire departments in Wayne, Decatur, and Pike Townships and hand them to IFD with a simple majority vote of the City-County Council and the signature of the Mayor of Indianapolis.
Current state statute allows for the handoff to occur with the approval of each township's seven-member advisory board. That has actually happened in the majority of townships in Marion County. Franklin, Lawrence, Perry, Warren, and Washington Townships. Only Decatur, Pike, and Wayne Townships have held out as independent fire departments, and come heck or high water, Kirchoffer wants that to stop.
Proponents of the bill say that the time has come to simply merge all the township fire departments with IFD and move on without the approval of the township level government. Opponents of the bill say that the current statute works just fine and that if it made sense to consolidate they would.
That is a question you often get two answers to. Decatur Township, for example, the smallest township fire department, had to borrow millions of dollars in emergency loans last year to stay afloat. Privately, some firefighters will tell you about severe staffing problems and wonder out loud if they can make it through the year without furloughs. The issues facing Decatur do not appear to be the reality in Pike and Wayne Townships, but the Firefighters Local 416 backs Kirchoffer's bill.
While I'm sympathetic to the firefighters cause, and I generally have been for consolidation since Mayor Bart Peterson pproposed it as part of his Indy Works plan, I do not believe that this is the way it should happen. I actually believe the current statute is an excellent compromise. It allows for the local folks to decide when it's time to merge and IF it's time to merge. It doesn't simply yank the rug out from underneath folks with a draconian hand from the Statehouse.
I find myself standing on principle with the trustees in this case even if we disagree on consolidation.
Kirchoffer Gets Opponent
Speaking of Cindy Kirchoffer, she will be fighting a dogged fighter in this upcoming election cycle.
Marion County Surveyor Debbie Jenkins has filed to run against Kirchoffer. The popular Beech Grove Democrat has served as Surveyor since 2009. She will get strong organized labor support and should have the strongest chance of defeating Kirchoffer as anyone since John Barnes. The former Representative in HD 89 lost in the Republican onslaught of 2010 to Kirchoffer by a little less than 600 votes.