American Legion Post 632 hosted a public meeting Thursday regarding the disbanded volunteer fire department and the fate of its building and equipment.
The fire department was formed in the 1950s and was officially disbanded in 2010. In addition to the firehouse, the department's equipment is valued at about $500,000 and includes three fire trucks and an ambulance.
Chad Balwanz said the issue is one of transparency in dealing with public assets. He questioned why the VFD was disbanded, why there was no community input and how the dispersal of equipment benefitted Glencoe.
Other speakers mentioned that several past decisions that affect the public were made without community input.
Past Fire Chief Tony Proger said the vehicles have been dispersed to Smith Township.
He said the expense of operation and lack of volunteers contributed to the decision to disband, which FEMA informed him was legal.
Proger added he felt it appropriate that the equipment go to another volunteer fire department rather than a paid department, such as Cumberland Trail.
He said he could arrange to have the equipment reclaimed.
He added no profit was made from disbanding the fire department.
Butch Meager, trustee with the Legion, suggested the Legion take possession of the building, either as a steward or owner. He noted the site is already the Legion's primary parking area and said the former fire department could be used as a new Legion hall, with the current Legion site transformed into a playground or community center. He added that the Legion is a 501-c entity and could take on management of the building.
Attendees also discussed forming a council of public entities including the cemetery association, the senior center, the Legion and residents to jointly oversee the site.
Meager and others said it is unlikely the VFD could be re-established due to the demands and costs of becoming a qualified firefighter and the lack of ready volunteers.
The department charter states the building falls under the authority of the fire department. With the group disbanded, there is a question of whether the building falls under the authority of the township, county, state or federal government. Proger suggested getting in contact with the state and re-establishing the charter.
Meager added that Richland Township Trustees were invited to the meeting but declined to respond.
Meager noted the building features ample parking, a concrete floor, restroom facilities, a commercial kitchen and a spacious room for a public hall.
The question of whether the equipment should remain with the Smith Township VFD must also be addressed.
All agreed transparency and public participation are vital for deciding the best course of action. Meager said the response from the community was encouraging.
Another meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. April 19.