Fire funding approved in Prairie

By Amanda Ensinger
Staff Writer

Prairie Township is putting more money into its fire department.

At a recent meeting, the board of trustees approved a pay increase for part-time firefighters. The 4 percent pay increase would increase part-time firefighters’ hourly rates to $11.98 for those with little experience, $12.60 for those with one to two years of experience and $13.16 for those with three plus years of experience.

“This will keep us competitive with other agencies in the area,” said Allen Scott, assistant fire chief. “A lot of departments are struggling to get part-time firefighters and we are not. We have a line of firefighters waiting to work for us part-time and we want to keep it that way.”

The raises were effective Jan. 1.

The trustees also approved allowing the fire department to spend about 6,300 on new recliners for the two firehouses. According to Scott, this is a significant savings.

“We will save approximately $6,000 on this furniture,” Scott said. “Normally, these recliners are around $800 each, we are getting them for $450 each. This is a significant savings.”

Electric Services

The township has secured a new agreement with Scott Belcastro of Trebel, LLC to provide negotiated electric services to the township. The agreement allows Volunteer Energy Services to be the township’s electric aggregation provider from March 1, 2019 through Nov. 30, 2021.

“We received five competitive bids and this offer makes the most sense,” Belcastro said. “We decided to go with a 33-month term for this program because the program will end right before electric expenses tend to go up due to cold weather. This will allow us to get better rates next time.”

Community Center Costs

Residents had several questions about the cost efficiency of the Prairie Township Community Center. They wanted to know exactly how much it costs the township to operate the center and how much the center brings in.

According to Prairie Township Community Center Director James Gant, the center costs approximately $1.6 million a year to run and the township is currently taking in $1.1 million.

“We don’t think we will ever fully have enough revenue to cover all the expenses of the community center,” said Stephen Kennedy, township trustee. “The plan was to have 80 percent recouped. We knew we would supplement the rest with the JEDZ fund. If it is really self-sufficient, we would have 80 percent recovery and if we get that we will be happy.”

Kennedy said he anticipates the community center will hit that 80 percent goal in the next few years.

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