Rather than the $5 deed fee increase they had requested, fire departments in Henry County will split about $16,000 annually.
In April, the court considered the request along with three scenarios presented by Judge-Executive John Logan Brent. Among those proposals was an option that would create two $8,000 grants.
The court voted last week to go with that option in a 3-3 vote, with Brent breaking the tie. Magistrates Scott Bates, Roger Hartlage and Nick Hawkins voted against the proposal.
Under the proposal, each of the fire departments could apply for one of the $8,000 grants — the recipient of which would be determined by the EMS committee; the remaining $8,000 would be divided equally among the departments, about $1,300.
Brent said the money for this would come from an ADF grant, as well as doing away with the mandatory fire department audits enacted in 2012 for two years.
Bates expressed concern about the committee choosing who gets the $8,000 grant.
“It’s putting all the… power in the committee’s hands of who is going to get that money,” he said. “My problem with that is I’m afraid it will get political.”
Bates said during a fire chiefs meeting, Lake Jericho Chief Guy Coombs expressed concern. “Guy Coombs was talking about it… used to be political, which fire departments got the money.”
The deed fees, he said, were an attempt to get away from that.
Hawkins proposed adjust the deed fee ordinance so that the fee adjusted annually according to the state’s Consumer Price Index — something he said elected officials’ pay is based on.
“(CPI) puts out a figure every year what they project the cost of living has been over the last few years,” he said. “This proposed change would adjust the deed fees annually according to that figure.
“The consensus among the fire chiefs is that it would be a good approach. It’s not political, it’s not throwing out a figure that we think they need. It’s going with the cost of living.”
Hawkins also expressed reservation about cannibalizing the audits.
“The proposal would call for bypassing the audits for a couple of years, which I felt was a really good move for us to start doing those,” Hawkins.
Tim Benham, New Castle’s fire chief, said his department was 15 years behind Shelby and Oldham Counties when it comes to fire protection. “I do have two nice trucks in my fire house, but we need money to run them,” he said. “I need more gear; one set of gear costs $3,200. Everything is getting outdated. We just need a little help.”
Brent said there was no doubt that the fire departments’ costs had gone up — everyone’s has, he said.
“My problem with the $5 increase and the cost of living (is) our costs have gone up, too,” he said. “The last two years we’ve stayed at 11.2 (percent) on property tax, haven’t moved off of that. That’s why I was willing to take a little out of our budget and put it toward your needs.”
Anything would help, Benham said, but “we don’t want ot be the low man on the totem pole.”