FORTVILLE — Leaders from Vernon Township need to find a new home for the area’s fire service, as an agreement to house the department’s equipment in town facilities comes to an end.
In 2009, when the township took over fire protection services from the now defunct Fortville Fire Department, town leaders agreed to rent 10 truck bays from the back of the municipal building to the township fire department, which is run by volunteers.
But that was intended as a short-term arrangement, said Fortville town manager Joe Renner, and officials need to clear out the space to house additional town offices and equipment as the area continues to grow. Over the next two years, the town plans to increase the rent charged to the department from $2,400 to $3,800 by 2018.
U.S. Census Bureau data show that between 2009 and 2015, Fortville gained about 200 residents, which amounts to a 5 percent increase, and its operations continue to grow, Renner said.
During the past several years, the department’s emergency runs have steadily increased, creating a heavier load for the 16-member volunteer squad, officials said. In 2014, the department, which covers about 26 square miles, was called out to assist on 626 runs; that increased to 661 last year, and the department is on track to top that figure again in 2016, said Jeff Marshall, who serves as chief of the Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department in Fortville, 714 E. Broadway St.
Now, the township is searching for properties in the Fortville area to build a new fire station that can store all of the department’s current equipment.
Township officials are searching for four- to six-acre properties in the area that could serve as adequate sites for the new station, Vernon Township Trustee Jim Nolte said.
Plans to build are still in preliminary stages; construction details, including the cost, have not been released.
Nolte said he hopes to purchase land for the new station within two months. Construction will likely follow 12 months after, with work wrapping up sometime in 2018, Nolte said.
Once township leaders find an appropriate site, they will survey the land and have two appraisals completed before purchasing the land, Nolte said.
Marshall said he hopes the township will build in an area with quick access to major thoroughfares, particularly Broadway Street. That will simplify matters for volunteers, who often travel to the department from their homes, he said.
But Marshall also stressed the importance of selecting a site that’s visible in the community in order to generate community interest and allow residents to walk to the facility.