GREENFIELD — As families continue to pour into northwest Hancock County, Vernon Township’s leaders are putting plans in place to ensure residents in the county’s fastest-growing area are well-served by their fire department.
Vernon Township and its volunteer fire department has since 2006 served the more than 11,000 residents that call Fortville and McCordsville home. The department’s 45 volunteer firefighters make emergency runs out of two fire departments, one in the heart of each municipality.
But growth in both towns is forcing the Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department to make changes, forcing them to find a new home in Fortville while hunting for land near the Hancock-Hamilton county line to build a third fire station.
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“Both of the towns are growing, and we’re trying to remedy the growing pains before it becomes an issue,” Vernon Township Trustee Jim Nolte said.
Down the road
For years, Vernon Township firefighters have used a 10-truck bay in the back of Fortville’s municipal building, 714 E. Broadway St., as their fire station to serve residents in the western portion of the township.
But members of the Fortville officials last year asked the fire department to vacate the building by 2018. Town officials anticipate they’ll need the space for offices in the coming years; they’ll likely need to hire additional staffers as the town’s population continues to climb, they say, as Fortville’s population grew by more than 4 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to Census records.
The announcement left Vernon Township leaders searching for a new home for their Fortville fire station.
After a months-long search, township board members recently struck a deal to purchase the building at 700 W. Broadway St. in Fortville that for years housed a private ambulance service. The township has offered $500,000 to buy the building; the sale is still being finalized, Nolte said.
In its current state, the building on east Broadway is too small to house the fire station, so the township board is working to outline plans for remodeling and expanding the building. Though renderings have not been finalized, they hope to make the new station larger than what is allotted in the Fortville town hall, Nolte said.
The potential cost of the renovations has not yet been finalized, Nolte said. He anticipates construction will be completed sometime in 2018 — just in time for the moving deadline outline by Fortville’s leaders.
The search continues
Vernon Township and McCordsville officials always are on the lookout for land that could be used to build a third fire station nearer to the county’s northern edge to help serve the booming population there, officials said.
McCordsville — the fastest-growing area in the county — now boasts some 6,000 residents, a number town officials estimate will reach 11,500 by 2020 as development continues to spread into the community from Indianapolis and Fishers.
Now, the area needs another station in addition to the one in the 7500 block of North Form Street, they say; officials are searching for land to build nearer to the Hancock-Hamilton county line.
The new site would be a third fire station for Vernon Township and would likely sit north of the CSX railroad tracks that pass through the township, Nolte said.
Right now, if a train travel through the area and blocks emergency vehicles, the town relies on first-responders from the nearby Fishers Fire Department for help. Having an additional station on McCordsville’s northside would be more ideal for firefighters and residents, Nolte said.
Recently, McCordsville town councilman Bryan Burney and planning director Ryan Crum met with the Vernon Township board and state fire officials to hear recommendations on where a fire station should be placed with respect to the new subdivisions popping up around the town.
Town officials have long watched the real-estate market for a plot of land that could be used for a new fire station, Crum recently told the township board; ultimately, Vernon Township will make the final decision on where and when to build.