NEWBURGH, Ind. (WEHT)- To pay or not to pay, that is the question facing communities in Warrick County, particularly after a week where firefighters battled at least four different fires, including three in Newburgh alone in as many days.
Whereas Evansville and Boonville have paid fire departments, Newburgh is largely served by volunteer fire departments like Ohio Township, Yankeetown, and Newburgh. Ohio Township Trustee Chad Bennett says the day when the township transitions to a paid fire department is coming, and coming quickly.
Bennett, who previously volunteered with the Newburgh Volunteer Fire Department- serving as assistant chief before resigning in 2015 to serve as trustee, says Ohio Township has grown rapidly over the past few years, bringing with it a greater need for a paid department.
Still, not every volunteer department is necessarily looking to make the switch. Yankeetown Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jay Davis says that while the department is looking for volunteers, they simply don’t have the same volume of calls that other departments, paid or otherwise, have.
Back in Ohio Township, Capt. David Shipley says the key questions aren’t if and when the department switches to a paid structure- but how they do it and how much people are willing to spend for the same level of service.
Shipley says he’d like the community to say they’d like to pay to “do it right,” like Scott Township but says that comes with a cost like higher taxes. Either way, Shipley says they’ll continue working to provide the best service possible, but says it again comes down to the community deciding what they’d rather do.
Note: This story has been updated to show Chad Bennett previously served as the Assistant Chief of the Newburgh Volunteer Fire Department. An earlier version mislabeled Chad Bennett as Assistant Chief of the Ohio Township Fire Department.