INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Fire Department has grown in recent years by merging with smaller departments in Marion County. The Wayne Township Fire Department could be the next under the IFD umbrella.
Trustees in Wayne Township are considering merging its fire department with the Indianapolis Fire Department and Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services.
Wayne Township communications director Jeff Harris claims the merger is necessary because the township can no longer afford its own fire department.
"As early as 2025, we'd be in a situation where the cost of operating a standalone fire department is going to outweigh the tax revenues," Harris said.
He said the cost of salaries, retirement plans, and healthcare is increasing while the Wayne Township population and tax base has not grown at all.
"That leaves us in a position to either borrow money or to cut services," Harris said. "Neither one of those is something we want to consider."
Harris also claims the merger would provide relief to Wayne Township taxpayers.
"They're going to see their property tax rate decrease by about 64 percent," Harris said.
If IFD takes over Wayne Township's fire department, it will retain its firefighters and five fire stations across the township. Harris also said each firefighter's tenure will roll over if the department is acquired by IFD.
IFD has merged with five other townships' fire departments since 2007. It most recently merged its services with the city of Beech Grove's fire department in 2021.
Wayne Township Trustee Jeb Bardon released a letter Tuesday confirming merger discussions between the trustees, Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett, IFD leadership and elected officials were taking place.
"Our priority remains the safety and well-being of our residents, and we are confident that this merger will contribute to the overall effectiveness of our fire and EMS services," Bardon said in the letter.
Plans for the merger will begin to take shape in January when a resolution is introduced to the Wayne Township board.
Following that step, a 30-day public comment period and a public hearing must be held before the Township board could vote on the measure.
If approved by the board, the Indianapolis City-County Council will then enter their rounds of hearings and approvals.
Wayne Township estimates the merger could be complete by the summer of 2024 if all is approved in a timely manner.