Harrisburg Council: We'll Respond to Fire Calls Again

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By Sam Jones
By Andy Shofstall

SALINE COUNTY --  Thursday night, Harrisburg leaders reacted to outcry over the city's fire response. They reinstated a policy of responding to every home in the township..

The council reverted back to the policy they eliminated seven months ago. The catch, though: full coverage is only guaranteed through November 6th. That's the date of the next general election, when voters will decide the future policy.

It was standing room only at Harrisburg's council meeting. Passions abounded in a room full of those who want the best for the city.

"I've just been appalled sitting back and watching our community and our people have fires," said Beth Montfort.

The answer of what's best depends on who you ask.  The council said the city cannot continue to pay for fire calls outside city limits.

"Our costs are going up, our revenue's going down. Our sales tax is flat line; Saline County and Harrisburg, we're flat," Commissioner Ron Fearheiley admitted.

In response to the outcry, the council found a compromise for now: reverting to its policy of fire coverage for anyone within Harrisburg Township. They'll charge $2,000 per call, just as they did before. It's a cost typically covered by insurance.

"We would continue outside fire calls starting tomorrow," Mayor Ron Crank explained.  

But city leaders will only guarantee the full coverage for the next eight and a half months. After that Mayor Crank hopes residents in the township will pass a fire protection tax.

"I think it's wrong for someone to ask for someone else to pay their way and basically that's what they'd be doing if they turn it down," added Crank.

Fearheiley says the city can't afford the extended fire protection past November 6th.

"We are faced with about a two month reserve in the city of Harrisburg. We are in trouble and don't know what to do," he said.

Residents like Montfort understand the cost concerns. Yet she says the city has to find other ways to save money.

"We're a community. We've got to pull together no matter what. No matter where you live- in the township or city," Montfort said. 

She believes the city has a long way to go and she isn't backing down.

"I've always learned speak up for what's right. You have to fight, sometimes you have to fight," Montfort explained.

The city will present its audit in a couple weeks. That will give us a clearer picture of where the city stands financially. If the tax doesn't pass in November, council members couldn't say what will happen regarding township fire calls.

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