Township fire consolidation proposal fails

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A proposal to consolidate three township fire departments in Indianapolis failed to make it out of a Senate Committee.

The proposal to give the City of Indianapolis the chance to take over Decatur, Pike and Wayne Township Fire Departments failed on a 4-6 committee vote. The hearing drew a packed house at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday.

Decatur, Wayne and Pike Township trustees were all against the measure.

House Bill 1229 would have given the City-County Council the opportunity to vote to take over Decatur, Pike and Wayne Township Fire Departments. Mayor Greg Ballard could also order this but the council could veto his decision.  

Twenty-three firefighters from Decatur Township came out in support of the bill. Local 416 in Marion County that represents firefighters is also in support.

Five townships have already consolidated with IFD. Lawmakers want one countywide department. Bill sponsors say Pike, Wayne and Decatur need to get on board.

"We are the only incorporated city in Indiana that has township fire departments instead of one local fire department," said State Representative Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove).

Kirchhofer and Representative Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis) are behind the push, trying to finish what former Mayor Bart Peterson couldn't. Past efforts to consolidate township government have gone down in political flames.

Under the new proposal, township trustees and advisory boards would have kept their jobs. Only the fire services would merge.

Township trustees see it as a hostile takeover.

The West Side Chamber of Commerce has passed a resolution against the bill.

"The community didn't have any input," said Wayne Township Fire Chief Gene Konzen.

"Personally, I think it stinks," said Bruce Jennings, who fought fires for more than 20 years in Pike Township before an injury forced retirement.

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