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The Clay Township Volunteer Fire Department is continuing operations after financial problems threatened to close the department by the end of this month.
John Lipson, the assistant fire chief, said the 20-member department still is able to keep the doors open to cover expenses such as diesel fuel, insurance and electricity.
“But we’re having to postpone a lot of things like maintenance on the trucks, as well as purchasing or replacing equipment,” said Lipson.
Former Clay Township trustee Christa Acton resigned in May. A state audit alleged that she mishandled funds and damaged township finances by not filing the necessary paperwork with the state. An investigation by the Indiana State Police into the township finances continues.
According to an May 13 open letter to Clay Township residents written by Lipson. Acton was supposed to pay the department $40,000 annually. However, the department only received $12,500 of what they were promised last year — and just $11,000 so far this year.
While Lipson said the department had $22,000 in the bank as of July 1, he pointed out that it costs $80,000 to $90,000 a year to run the department.
“That gives you an idea of how much we still have to bring in each month, because $22,000 will not last until the end of the year,” said Lipson. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some additional money from our new trustee, Becky Smith.”
While Chief Doyle Morgan has been with the Clay Township Fire Department for 22 years, he’s never seen a time when his department was so close to financial collapse.
“We were worried pretty good there for awhile,” said Morgan. “We were worried about how we were going to pay our bills. We thought we might have had to shut it down. But then, the donations came in. We really lucked out.”
The department, which has stations in Jewell Village and near Petersville, has received 30 donations totaling $4,646 so far this year.
Morgan expects his volunteers will have to make what they can on proceeds from fish fries and the community’s generosity until 2014. A successful fish fry can bring in about $3,000.
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