WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising is moving forward with working towards creating a fire district.
This would solve the township's current lack of sustainable funding, but is controversial among other township leaders.
Some board members feel that not enough research or direction has been presented on this plan. And that Trustee Teising dropped the ball on other funding plans, like collaborating with the West Lafayette Fire Department.
Trustee Teising sent an email to fire department members Wednesday afternoon. That email was shared with News 18 anonymously.
"The WTVFD will need to get 6,000 signatures from property owners of the unincorporated area of Wabash Township (the area served by the fire department) if it wants to take the next step towards a Fire District," she said in the email.
She said in an email that she is holding a meeting on Saturday March 6th to answer questions. She said in an email sent on Thursday that this will not be a public meeting, and that the Wabash Township Board has no involvement in the management of the fire department.
"A Fire District is the last option I am aware of to keep any paid firefighters," she said in the email. "As some of you know the previous administration was spending more than it received 8 of it's last ten years. The cash reserve is gone. So if we don't raise taxes (the only avenue to do so is to set up a Fire District) we will have to eliminate the paid positions and cut the budget."
As we previously reported, the Wabash Township Firefighters Association voted unanimously last week for no confidence in Trustee Teising and are calling for her resignation.
Wabash Township Board President Angel Valentin sent the following statement:
"This is the first time we're hearing of this from her. As long as she is the Trustee, we will review any proposal she puts forward. As such, we look forward to finally hearing what her proposed plan is for becoming a Fire District. Carrying out a signature drive, as well as governing, is a collaborative effort; we would prefer, and expect, that our volunteer firefighters not be burdened with carrying out the work of informing our constituents and collecting signatures on their own from 20% of property owners. The Board members look forward to helping interested constituents, and the Fire Department, so that we can be successful in securing a permanent revenue source for our community's fire protection."
Trustee Teising sent the following statement on Thursday:
"As I mentioned earlier when I took over the township, the fire department was spending more money than we received. We only had two paid full-time firefighters even though other departments with similar run numbers have 9-15 paid staff (with benefits). I approached the board with a temporary (emergency loan) solution to fund the staff needed immediately and a financial consulting firm to review our options for a permanent funding solution. The board approved this plan in 2019 and can be viewed at https://wabashtrustee.com/budget.
As the fire department requested, I recently emailed them a meeting date to present them with solutions from our financial consultant. Everyone has always known that if we do not find a permanent solution we would not have the budget needed to support paid staff or benefits such as health insurance and retirement. Angel and Michelle joined the board after the decision was made and they no longer appear to support spending money on staff or benefits without a permanent solution in place. (See February 9th meeting at https://wabashtrustee.com/february-9-2021.
Per the board, we can no longer execute our original plan. They have asked to put hiring and spending on hold and concentrate on a permanent solution immediately. Budget (tax increases) increases to fund paid staff and benefits needs to be understood and supported by the fire department. If the fire department need has changed I am unaware. I have never been informed that anything has changed from Jan 2019 regarding the need for these paid positions. In fact, just this month the fire department requested an additional position to the six I had originally recommended to the board."