Washington Township to join fire protection district in 2022

At Wednesday’s regular weekly meeting, their last of the year, Monroe County commissioners approved the addition of Washington Township to the Monroe Fire Protection District, starting in 2022.

Earlier this year, commissioners approved the addition of Benton Township to the MFPD, also starting in 2022.

During 2021, Benton and Washington townships will contract with MFPD for fire protection.

In 2019, Van Buren and Bloomington townships were approved for inclusion in the MFPD, starting in 2021.

That means outside the city of Bloomington, MFPD will provide fire protection everywhere in the county except Bean Blossom and Richland townships, in the northwest corner of the county.

By 2022, all the townships where the MFPD provides fire protection will also be members of the district, except for the sparsely populated Salt Creek and Polk townships in the southeastern part of the county. Being a part of the MFPD, instead of just contracting for fire protection means that property owners there will pay a fire levy to the MFPD, not to their home townships.

The additional service area is reflected in the adopted budget for MFPD for 2021, which is just shy of $12 million. That’s better than three times the 2020 adopted budget, which totaled around $3.7 million.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the commissioners, MFPD chief Dustin Dillard said that based on his work with the Washington Township board and trustee Barb Ooley, he was expecting to see a new fire station constructed in the township by 2022. The station will be constructed, he thinks, in 2021.

Ooley confirmed Dillard’s description, saying, “It is the plan and goal of Washington Township’s board to have a station built within Washington Township in 2021.” She added, “We don’t have our deed back yet— it is still with the state.” Ooley said she thinks the township will close the real estate deal sometime in January.

After the meeting, Ooley described the future fire station property to The Square Beacon in relation to its proximity to the old Bloomington Bandag Tire Co. location near I-69. The strip of land starts near the water tower and extends south, past Dittemore Road.

The expansion of the MFPD comes in the context of a revision to the state statute on fire protection districts that was made in 2019.

If an unincorporated area of the county that is part of a fire protection district is annexed into a city, the new law has the effect of leaving an annexed area as a part of a fire protection district, even after annexation. The fire protection district has to continue to provide fire protection services to the annexed area.

On Tuesday, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that a law enacted by the legislature in 2017, to stop Bloomington’s then in-progress annexation process, was unconstitutional.

Interviewed just after the court’s opinion was issued, Hamilton said about the 2019 change to the law on fire protection districts, “My view is that was not well thought out, but it is what it is.”