A meeting planned for Jan. 28 to continue discussions about the potential for an expanded fire and EMS district has been canceled due to lack of interest, according to group facilitator Kerry Brugger, Urbana director of administration. In an e-mail Wednesday, Brugger said that while the concept of a fire and/or EMS district has merit, the timing may not be right to move forward at this time.
Representatives of fire and EMS departments throughout Champaign County, including township, village and Urbana city officials, last met at the Urbana Township office on Dec. 3, 2018. At that meeting, Goshen Township Trustee Tim Cassady said that his township’s only interest was to know that they would receive adequate service 10-20 years into the future. He added that the Mechanicsburg Fire Department was a source of pride in the community, but that a centralized fire district would likely move its headquarters to the furthest east edge of Union Township.
“What the people of our community see is, number one, they’re going to lose a source of pride to the community,” he said. “Number two, while they’re paying 4 mills now, it’s reasonable to assume that at some point in the future, when you create this bigger animal, 4 mills ain’t gonna do it. So let’s think about this for a second. You’re losing your fire department and you’re going to be asked to pay six, eight, maybe double what you pay now. How do you sell that?”
Urbana Fire Chief Dean Ortlieb said that the main benefits of a centralized district would include saving on administrative costs and redundant equipment, but that there were more variables to consider, such as whether townships could count on quicker response time or guaranteed 24-hour coverage.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304