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OPINION
June 3, 2020

2/19/2020 12:32:00 PM
Prioritizing public safety

What a difference from a couple of years ago.

Last week, the Jennings County Council voted unanimously to appropriate $100,000 for the Vernon Volunteer Fire Department's new fire station.

Clearly, public safety has to be a top priority for our elected officials. A fire station to house the expensive firefighting equipment and provide space for emergency training is vital to public safety.

The County Council doesn't really deserve credit for recognizing what is as obvious as the nose on one's face, but we're giving it to them anyway. That is because its wise move is a refreshing change from what happened a couple years ago.

Last week's vote was in stark contrast to what the County Council did when Campbell Township Volunteer Fire Department was planning a badly-needed new fire station in Butlerville. Volunteer firefighters came to the County Council multiple times begging for money to help fund construction, meeting resistance every time.

The loudest pushback from the County Council was a sad and grossly illogical argument. "If we give money for this firehouse project, then every volunteer fire department in the county will expect the same," to paraphrase the words put out by the councilors at the time.

Really? So what? Shouldn't these small fire departments, that operate on shoestring budgets and rely exclusively on volunteers to fight fires, expect to get financial support from government?

Campbell finally got the money it needed, in fact $10,000 more than what the County Council appropriated for Vernon, but it didn't come easy. The County Council moved slowly, in cruel and almost sadistic fashion, requiring Campbell firefighters to come back to plead many times for funding needed not only for the fire station's construction but to prevent a state grant for the project from expiring. The state grant required a partial match in funding, and Campbell finally got it at the 11th hour. Never mind that the county had money for the project in public safety revenue generated by the Local Option Income Tax, the County Council inexplicably had to drag its feet and draw out the process for no real reason.

Vernon definitely needs a new, larger fire station, though its situation is not nearly as dire as what Campbell was facing. Public safety is of utmost importance. That includes our fire departments that deserve substantial government support. It's good to see the Jennings County Council in recognizing that and acting appropriately.





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