Village looks to upgrade and replace fire equipment

Published 4:42 am Friday, December 12, 2003

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS -- Fire Chief William Fitzgerald and his department have waited long enough.
While discussions are continuing into their third year on whether LaGrange Township is turning over enough money collected for fire services, the department has continued using outdated and unsafe equipment.
Monday evening Fitzgerald turned over to the Village of Cassopolis Council a list of needed expenditures coming to a total of $58,275.
The $19,045 will pay for a new tank and $700 for Unit 120's brakes. The firefighters' air bottles for their masks are pushing 30 years old. Ten new ones would be $3,500.
The Scot Air Pacs, which are much lighter than the ones the department has now, also now have voice communication, buddy breathing capabilities and alarms which notify others that a firefighter has passed out.
A Unimac washer would be $5,500 and used to remove carcinogens from the volunteers gear, and in turn lungs.
They have also suffered for years with the truck exhaust fumes in the station, while monthly truck checks are performed, Fitzgerald said. A filtration system for the station would cost just over $19,000.
It was hoped by now that Cassopolis might have gotten a new fire station, which would have been built with such a system.
These purchases would "just bring us up to standards," Fitzgerald added, and OSHA requirements. He told also of how one fireman took his own time to put a damaged tank, which saved the department $10,000.
The goal of frequent talks between the townships covered by the Cassopolis department, is to "set up a fire authority." That would leave the decisions of how the tax money is divided to that group which would have representatives from each township and a member appointed by that body, Art Sciorra, Village Manager, explained.
Hopefully the lack of and miscommunication is in the past, with LaGrange Township agreeing to pay $30,000 toward the air packs and bottles, washer, tank repair and exhaust system.
In the past, the Village officials have felt that LaGrange was not paying its fair share toward fire protection, after collecting the taxes from residents within the village and the areas covered by Cassopolis Fire in the township.
The $25,000 they did pay, was "for protections for the sections outside the village," said Sciorra, "but not the money from the people in the village."
he feels it is unfair that the village residents, who have already paid for fire protection, have to make up the difference in the $70,000 fire budget from the Village's general fund.
He added that he didn't know of anything "in the Village that had been paid for by taxes from LaGrange general fund."
This is one reason why the Village has been pursuing with its attorney, changing to a city status. Then the taxes would be in control of the village and other tax incentives could be secured.
A petition committee has been meeting and drafting petitions and working on a few boundary map changes. Eventually the proposal will to taken to the people.