Tax Hike Proposal May Mean Higher Cost In Penn Township

There is a tax hike proposal that could cost Penn Township taxpayers $29 more a month.

Proponents say the plan would provide the growing community with ambulance service and room for growth.

The fire and EMS Task Force for Penn Township presented their recommendations to the trustee and advisory board Tuesday afternoon.

The plan calls for hiring 31 additional full time employees, adding EMS service, and forming a fire district with Harris Township.

The Penn Township Fire Department covers 51 square miles of territory with three full time employees and 36 volunteers.

They say the man power they have is not enough to ensure the safety of the 22 thousand residents.

“People think that were a relatively small department and we don’t respond to too many things but we do. We respond to 13 hundred calls a year, that is about five calls a day, so we stay pretty busy,” said John Smits, Penn Township Fire Chief.

While they stay busy, response times to some areas of the territory have been very slow in the past.

Some residents say they recognize a need for change, but they do not think raising taxes is the answer.

“I don’t think there is that much problem yet, the only thing I have heard of is the winding brook,” said, Evertt Holt, Penn Township Resident, “I’m hoping they can work out something with the city of Mishawaka because they have two fire stations that’s not far from Winding Brook.”

The final decision on what will be done lies with Penn Township Trustee, Jeff Dean.

He agreed with his advisory board Tuesday night, that the proposed changes are too much too soon for property tax payers and the residents he has talked to agree.

Dean said, the township is expanding and we do have to take that into consideration, but it is too drastic, too quickly.”

He continued with, “I have been keeping a running tab and I have received 22 phone calls against and three for.”

Tuesday’s night meeting was just a discussion; no final decision was made and a plan may not be laid out for a while.

Dean hopes to make a decision by the end of 2007.

Two residents that were concerned about a possible tax hike going into the meeting told us afterwards that they felt assured that no drastic tax would be imposed.

The trustee and members of his advisory board all made it clear that they do think something needs to change, but the proposed plan is too drastic.

Another possible solution that has been talked about is a possible joint fire district with Mishawaka.

Dean says he has been talking with Mishawaka Mayor Jeff Rea, and those discussions have been positive.

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