Lowell-area officials toy with another try at fire territory

2012-08-09T18:30:00Z 2012-08-09T22:12:26Z Lowell-area officials toy with another try at fire territoryMelanie Csepiga Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
August 09, 2012 6:30 pm  • 

LOWELL | After spending time and money nearly two years ago to gauge public support for a fire territory that was rejected by the state, south county towns and townships are considering another try.

A decision should come soon.

Indianapolis attorney Steven Bushman told Lowell and Schneider town councilmen and West Creek and Cedar Creek Township trustees and advisory board members earlier this week if they want it, the time is now.

Bushman is considered an authority on fire territories in Indiana and has successfully guided a number of communities through the process.

He said the increased amount of information now required by the state, plus the precise timing to be followed, means the required data should be determined and in written form by Dec. 1 to go for state approval next year.

The earlier public push for a fire territory was organized by the firefighting volunteers in and around Lowell and the Tri-Creek Emergency Medical Service. Sustained funding, particularly for the ambulance service, was the impetus, they said.

That's not a bad reason to create a fire territory, Bushman said.

The earlier effort failed, he said, because the fire territory agreement included fire and ambulance officials on the proposed fire territory board.

A fire territory is an agreement between government entities — the towns and townships, Bushman said.

This time, should it be pursued, leaders are unlikely to try to include unincorporated Shelby in Cedar Creek Township. Shelby residents strongly opposed the idea, and Eagle Creek Township leaders rejected inclusion.

Earlier public opposition came from farmers, who said it would be an unfair tax burden, and residents against creating another tax-based entity.

Bushman said the law says residential properties cannot be taxed more than 1 percent of their gross assessed value, and 2 percent for farms means many property owners won't notice a change.

Instead, other tax-based government units such as libraries and schools will be impacted.

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