The McLean County Fiscal Court will hear the first reading of an ordinance on May 11 that would merge the county volunteer fire departments into one.
According to the ordinance draft, the five volunteer units — Central, Eastern, Southeastern, Southern and Western district fire departments — would remain in the respective locations.
“The five volunteer fire departments serving the five geographical locations in the unincorporated areas in McLean County have merged into the McLean County Fire Department for purposes of reporting to the fire commissioner,” the ordinance draft states.
McLean County Judge-Executive Curtis Dame said the ordinance essentially restructures the departments “to match the fact that we all run under one (employer identification number).”
“We’re just basically fixing things the way they should have been fixed years ago,” he said. “That’s been a common theme for a lot of the things we’ve done here.”
Dame said each district department’s funds will be separated into the same accounts they currently are.
According to the McLean County Fire Department by-laws draft, “funding for the districts will be as it has been.”
“Each district will be issued a check from the sheriff’s office as it is collected and it will be deposited into the district’s account by the McLean County Treasure,” the drafted by-laws state.
Dame said one change that will come from this ordinance is the election of a fire chief.
“The election would be held by the firefighters themselves or a selection process,” he said. “We think that’s a fair way to do it.”
One major change that would be enacted if the ordinance is passed is the grant application process.
“When we apply for grants, not all five of (the districts) can apply because they all share the same fiscal court tax ID number,” Dame said. “They’re an extension of the county government.”
The change would not affect the status of volunteer firefighters, Dame said.
“The membership to the department shall be limited, as required, to maintain 51% state certified firefighters (Basic I certification as required by the Kentucky Fire Commission),” the drafted by-laws state.
Volunteer firefighters, under the drafted by-laws, must obtain the Basic I certification within the first two years of membership and all members must attend at least 20 hours of fire training annually to maintain firefighter certification status.
Dame said the fiscal court “really doesn’t have a choice” when it comes to passing the ordinance.
“The state is saying we need to reorganize and re-do how we operate,” he said. “It comes at a beneficial time because when we consolidate these fire departments, we don’t lose any state aid support.”
Dame said he doesn’t see any negative aspects that would come out of the ordinance.
“With the constructive conversations we’ve had, it seems like everyone is on the same page,” he said. “It’ll be a change, but that’s just the world we live in. No two things stay the same for very long.”
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