ST. JOSEPH TOWNSHIP, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - A fire chief is fighting to keep his department running and a township trustee is pushing to cut back on cost. It's a fierce battle in Allen County's St. Joseph Township.
"Our hands are being tied, handcuffs are being put on and we can't do our jobs effectively," said Chief Jerry Lencke, St. Joseph Township Fire Department.
"He's not being honest with what he's supposed to be doing, so he's crafting a story for you people," said Richard Yhirck, Trustee, St. Joseph Township.
Without notifying the fire department Trustee Richard Yhirck recently sold the department’s rescue boat.
"Now if we get dispatched on a person in a pond we can't do anything but stand by," said Lencke.
The boat is already gone and the fire chief is afraid this story is far from over. He says an engine, along with 4 other vehicles are next on the list.
Reporter: "Is it true that you have 5 other vehicles up for sale?"
Yhirck: "No, that's not true."
After first denying it Yhirck later said the engine and two other vehicles are up for sale.
Reporter: "Is it true the engine is for sale?"
Yhirck: "The engine is for sale."
Yhirck says population in the township is down and these resources are no longer needed. The chief says the department has already been cutting back their budget.
"If the trustee says this is a monetary issue, we've turned down $6,000," said Lencke.
The chief says that was money the department had been getting from a neighboring township to provide protection to their community.
In late January Yhirck admits he locked the doors to rooms used for salary firefighters to stay overnight. Those firefighters were also let go.
"Start dividing $120,000 among 5,000 people you will find out how much that extra cost was, and they really weren't needed," said Yhirck.
That cost adds up to about $24 a year per household. This year that money was budgeted and paid for by taxpayers. Since January 31 those full time salaried firefighters have been off the job. Now, they are running solely on volunteer firefighters.
"It's my opinion this is a force play, if we kick them out they can't make response times and we have to sell it to the Fort Wayne Fire Department," said Lencke.
Reporter: "Is your ultimate goal to outsource the department, to save the township money?
Yhirck: "If that's the way...Now what we...,"
Yhirck never answered that question. He also couldn't tell Indiana’s NewsCenter when, or how much savings those taxpayers will see.
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