DYER | A few of the players have dropped out, but enough showed up recently to make the second discussion of a fire territory a lively one.
Dyer, St. John, Schererville, Highland and Munster attended the territory meeting late last year. St. John has since bowed out of the process and Munster officials have not indicated any additional interest.
If Dyer, Schererville and St. John did form a fire territory, a big plus would be revenue, Dyer Fire Chief Thad Stutler said. If two or more contiguous Indiana municipalities form a fire territory, then that territory has its own tax levy.
However, if the territory is to win taxpayer approval, towns will have to present a case for how it would improve services, Schererville Fire Chief Joe Kruzan said.
Indiana fire territories are formed via a long process that makes use of public input and public hearings. If the three communities did decide to form a territory the soonest it would be in place is 2015, said Paige Sansone, who represented financial consultant H.J. Umbaugh at the meeting.
And once a tax levy is put in place it will not go up. “You only get one shot (at a tax percentage),” she said. “There’s no going back.”
Fire territories can be organized any way the participants wish.
“A lot of it is fear of the unknown,” said Sansone, who stressed that Umbaugh has no recommendation regarding the territory. “Nothing has to change, unless (participants) want it to change.”
Dyer Councilwoman Mary Tanis had concerns how a fire territory might work given the fairly dense populations in the three communities.
Kruzan said he would invite fire chiefs in territories with dense populations to come and speak at any future study sessions.
Discussions on the question of a fire territory need to continue, Schererville Town Manager Robert Volkmann said, for officials to find out if having one would really benefit their individual communities.
“I don’t think we’ll have an answer until we follow (the process) to the end,” he said.