Clock ticking on
Center Township fire protection deal
By Devin Zimmerman
Dec 6, 2017
Only a month remains for Center Township Trustee Rev. Robert Lee to
finalize plans for Tall Oaks and Darrough Chapel to receive fire
protection, and the trustee said it’s likely those areas will receive
volunteer fire protection next year.
This comes despite the fact that the Lee knew for a year about the
impending expiration of the fire protection contract previously held
between the city of Kokomo and the township, which saw Kokomo Fire
Department covering the unincorporated areas of the township.
Compounding the issue is the fact that Lee was forced to negotiate an
extension on the contract with Kokomo in October, after he was unable
to formulate a contract before a previous deadline of Oct. 1, to extend
fire protection through the end of this year. That extension cost Lee
about $350,000, three times Center Township’s budget for fire
protection next year, which was coming from Kokomo for fire equipment
the township held.
With the deadline looming, citizens of Darrough Chapel expressed
frustration with Lee’s efforts in ensuring they receive fire
protection, and they aren’t satisfied with what they view as a lack of
action on his part to negotiate with the city of Kokomo.
“I think what we need, as a neighborhood, to know is has there been any
further negotiation with the city?” said Vicki Douglas, a resident of
Darrough Chapel for 46 years. “We don’t believe it’s the mayor’s
responsibility to go to the board of trustees and say, ‘This is what
I’m willing to give. Here’s my negotiating figure.’ We believe that in
the process that negotiation needs to go the other direction. We just
want to believe that the board of trustees has, in good faith, had
negotiations with the city to bring that $1.4 million down to a more
manageable figure for the board of trustees’ budget.”
Previously in the process, Mayor Greg Goodnight laid out a figure for
Lee on what he believed would be a fair amount for the city to provide
fire protection to the unincorporated areas. That figure, about $1.4
million, was based upon the unincorporated areas amounting to about 10
percent of KFD’s coverage area, thus in his reasoning meaning Center
Township should cover 10 percent of the city’s $14 million total fire
Lee acknowledged there was no “formal” effort on his part to provide
the city with a counter offer to their $1.4 million figure. Rather, he
said his efforts to renegotiate with the city took place through a
“couple” of “informal” conversations with Goodnight. When asked if he
ever provided a figure for protection the township could afford, the
trustee admitted he gave no such figure to the city.
“No, no, because I was waiting to see what my alternatives were with
the vendors,” said Lee.
As such, the trustee said he’s pursuing volunteer fire protection
contracts for the unincorporated areas, through Galveston, Greentown,
and Taylor Township volunteer fire departments.
When asked why the negotiations are coming down to the wire, Lee said,
“That’s just the way the situation worked out. Yeah, I knew about it,
and there were initial things that were done. They were just not real
formal, but that’s why it’s come down to this.”
Lee said he hopes to have the contracts finalized with the volunteer
fire departments by the middle of December.
But changing fire protection for the unincorporated areas from a
professional department to volunteer would have multiple effects, none
of which Darrough Chapel residents are pleased with. Aside from changes
to response time, Douglas said homeowners are likely to be hit with
increases to their homeowner insurance rates.
Douglas said she contacted an insurance agent to get an idea of how she
would be affected, and she was informed that the shift would change
their fire coverage from a class three protection rating to somewhere
between a class five and nine protection rating. That shift would
result in at least a $300 increase in insurance costs to her if it
shifted to a class five rating. If given a class nine protection
rating, the amount could be much higher.
“We have had someone say they contacted an agent, and theirs would
double,” said Douglas. “So, it’s going to depend upon, as we understand
it, each insurance company’s interpretation to decide whether we’re
between that five or nine class … All of [the residents] that we have
talked to have been [paying] $1,100 or $1,200 a year. That would
With it likely the unincorporated areas will lose professional fire
protection, Douglas said her neighborhood’s efforts to seek annexation
from the city are underway.
Douglas said a petition has been created, and an informal committee
formed in Darrough Chapel is likely to begin circulating it in hopes of
garnering the required 51 percent of signatures from area residents.
This would start the process of willful annexation by Darrough Chapel.
Previously, the mayor said he’s open to such an annexation.
The long-time Darrough Chapel resident said residents are hopeful
they’ll be able to avoid being stuck with volunteer services for a
period as long as the previous five-year contract held between the city
“Looking forward to five years of possible volunteer fire protection is
not our goal,” said Douglas. “I will say that there are a fair amount
of us who are in the process of reaching out to the rest of the
Darrough Chapel community and possible voluntary annexation.”