Bluffton City Council sets special meeting to discuss fire department expansion

Local News

BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) — Bluffton City Council decided it will wait another week to decide whether or not more firefighters will be hired and new facilities built for the fire department. The discussion came during Tuesday’s meeting.

For a little over eight months a task force, organized by Mayor John Whicker, has looked into what the fire department needs to properly serve and protect the community.

Among those requests:

  • Hire five firefighters to start Jan. 1, 2022
  • Two fire stations to be built, one on the south side of town and one on the north
  • Ask the mayor to agree on a 10-year fire renewal with Harrison Township
  • Support a task force to look at financing

Councilman Roger Thornton address the council with the complete list of items the task force was asking for. After reading the list, the council sat quietly for a minute or two and then Mayor Whicker asked for the council to discuss.

A majority of the council said they felt the decision was being rushed.

“Maybe we should pause for a second and relook at the data,” said Councilman Rick Elwell. “It feels very rushed to drop a million bucks and I say that with the firefighters here… I just have some internal conflicts.”

“That business background has survived me well with the data,” said Councilman Scott Mentzer. “It’s all been data-driven and I try not to make it emotional and I respect the profession. I support the task force and I’ve learned a lot.”

Councilmembers went back and forth on the topic ultimately deciding that this topic was too big to fit in a regular council meeting.

“It may feel rush if you haven’t been involved with it,” said Councilman Thornton. “I’m hoping we can set the timeline. We have a deep concern with the safety of our firefighters and the safety of the facility.”

On June 16 at 6:30 p.m. council will hold a special meeting to sit down and vote on some or all of the items the task force is asking for.

After the decision Bluffton Fire Chief Don Craig addressed the council.

“I appreciate the compassion and I stood in front of you and said I need staffing, staffing, staffing,” Chief Craig said. “But we can’t fit the staff we need in that building. Thank you I know how hard this is.”

Also discussed during the meeting was the city’s wastewater treatment system improvements. DLZ, presented the council with their goal for improving the wastewater plant and collection. The $46 million dollar project would help with the city’s growth as well as repair the current plant which getting old.

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