Fire District Proposal Gets Local Approvals

Establishing a fire district for Crothersville and Vernon Township moved a step closer when the Crothersville Town Council and Vernon Township Board met jointly to hold a public hearing on the matter on Tuesday, May 5.

No one voiced an objection to the plan.

Establishing a fire district will allow the fire department to be administered by a five-member board appointed by the county commissioners. The fire district will have the authority to levy a new tax rate on property in Crothersville and in the township.

Currently the fire department is funded by Vernon Township levying a tax of around 4¢ per $100 of assessed valuation on property. While the township is funding fire protection at the maximum allowed by the state, the tax income is not keeping up with department expenses.

“Because we are along the I-65 corridor, we get called to a number of traffic accidents on the interstate,” local fire chief Ben Spencer earlier explained.

Vernon Township is the last area in Jackson County not administered by a fire district. Other than the city of Seymour which has a paid fire department, nearly all fire districts were established about six years ago.

“By waiting, we believe we have learned from other district’s mistakes,” said Spencer.

The next step is for the town and township to submit names of local residents to be appointed to the new fire district board by the county commissioners.

A derelict 124-year old building at the stoplight in Crothersville may be a step closer to being demolished.

Town attorney Jeff Lorenzo informed the council that the building, which was offered for sale by the county commissioners last month for delinquent taxes, received no bid.

“I think we should move forward with taking ownership and having it tore down before someone gets hurt,” said council president Ardell Mitchell.

The building, originally built as an Odd Fellows Lodge and housed a variety of retail and service businesses over the years in its first floor, has deteriorated to the extent that large cracks can be seen in the brick building’s Howard Street side. Portions of the buildings front have noticeably sagged.

The building is currently owned by Environmental Awareness Reached Through Helping Hands.

Mitchell said he has informally asked some contractors for a cost to raze the building and those estimates have been $40-$50,000.

The council unanimously approved taking ownership and instructed Lorenzo to proceed with the legal work.

In other matters, the council is finding it difficult to give away a 50-year old fire truck. The town owns a 1965 Ford fire truck and has tried to give it to a couple of rural Jennings County fire departments but has had no takers.

Councilman Lenvel ‘Butch’ Robinson, said he has been in contact with Gosport Fire Department who has expressed interest.

The council tabled any action on the fire truck until Robinson reports back on the fire department in Owen County’s active interest.

A proposed local sewer use ordinance is being evaluated by IDEM, according to Brad Bender of the town’s engineering firm FPBH of North Vernon.

It was noted that the ordinance would not impact residential ratepayers but is focused on industrial users and what can be contained in production wastewater placed into the sanitary sewers.

“This will help Jim Plump and JCIDC market Crothersville for new industry,” said town attorney Lorenzo. “Many industries don’t want to move into a community unless they have an established sewer use ordinance.”

Bender told the council that the Industrial Way road expansion to South Kovener Street is substantially completed and that the town has scheduled a ribbon cutting officially opening the road for Thursday, June 11.

In a final matter, Eric Frey of ARa reported that the town has had a good interest in another housing grant which provides money for low-income families to make repairs that are otherwise unaffordable.

“We currently have 20 apps to show the state of the local interest,” said Frey, adding that up to a $40,000 local match for the project may be provided by Rising Sun through a Bank Match program.

“Everyone who has participated in the housing project here has benefited in the past,” said Mitchell.