Columbus Township considering cuts to paid firefighters

Columbus Township board members are considering cutting the paid firefighting staff for the Columbus Township Fire and Rescue Department.

The township board began discussion of next year’s budget at a meeting this week. Board members Jimmy Green and Mike Shireman, the majority of the three-person board, said they had made promises to taxpayers to lower the tax burden from Columbus Township firefighting.

Township Trustee Ben Jackson said the township will finish paying off a fire loan this year and can put that income tax money toward the fire department, reducing the tax rate:

07-07 Ben Jackson-1

Shireman said he did not think that would be enough to satisfy taxpayers.

Green said that he was interested in hearing proposals on ways to cut the budget without cutting firefighters.

07-07 Jimmie Green-2

The township fire department uses a paid staff of six firefighters in addition to volunteers to provide fire coverage to the areas of the township that are outside of the Columbus city limits. The total cost for the fire service each year is almost $650,000.

The fire department recently received an upgraded insurance rating due to the paid staff and improved response times.

Fire Chief Dave Thompson, a paid staff member, said that the department went to paid staff because not enough volunteers could be found to make fire runs during the daytime. Although the department has mutual aid agreements with other departments, that usually means the Columbus Township firefighters are providing responses to all the other rural fire departments in the county, he said.

The Columbus Township Fire and Rescue Department was formerly known as the East Columbus Volunteer Fire Department.