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Hot topic: Fire department copes with shrinking area, revenue


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Bargersville's fire district has shrunk following Greenwoods annexation of about one square mile on the east side of SR 135 between Stones Crossing and Whiteland Roads. Photo by Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Bargersville's fire district has shrunk following Greenwoods annexation of about one square mile on the east side of SR 135 between Stones Crossing and Whiteland Roads. Photo by Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

Bargersville's fire district has shrunk following Greenwoods annexation of about one square mile on the east side of SR 135 between Stones Crossing and Whiteland Roads. Photo by Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Bargersville's fire district has shrunk following Greenwoods annexation of about one square mile on the east side of SR 135 between Stones Crossing and Whiteland Roads. Photo by Scott Roberson / Daily Journal


One of the largest Johnson County fire departments no longer handles calls in part of the Center Grove area, which has led to occasional confusion over which department is responsible and a loss of tax revenue.

The Bargersville Fire Protection District is 62 square miles, about two square miles less than what it was before a Greenwood annexation, Bargersville Fire Chief Jason Ramey said.

Greenwood grabbed the northeast corner of the district through an annexation, and its fire department now is responsible for responding to fires, traffic accidents and other emergency calls in that area. Bargersville firefighters had served that area since 1954.

The Bargersville district no longer handles calls on the east side of State Road 135 between Stones Crossing and Whiteland roads but still does on the west side of the highway, and that arrangement can lead to occasional confusion about which department has jurisdiction, Ramey said. The fire district also had to buy new land and build its newest fire station farther south on State Road 135 so it wouldn’t be right across the street from an area that Greenwood firefighters handle.

Even with the annexation, Bargersville firefighters still serve the largest geographic area of any full-time fire department in the county, Ramey said. Calls have been up so far this year.

The biggest consequence of the annexation is the loss of property tax revenue, Ramey said.

Officials said that amount is small now but could grow in future years as the land is developed.

No estimate was available of how much tax revenue the district no longer can collect or the impact on tax rates. The district no longer can collect taxes on an estimated $4.7 million worth of property, or less than 1 percent of its total assessed valuation, according to the accounting firm Reedy Financial Group.

Assessed value helps determine how much the fire district can collect in property taxes.

Fewer property owners are helping pay for the Bargersville fire district’s $4.2 million annual budget, meaning that the remaining taxpayers have to shoulder a bigger part of the cost.

Fire district board member Brian Catt said the financial impact would not be significant and likely would not affect the district’s budget next year.

“There’s not a lot there,” he said. “It’s pretty much bare ground.”

Catt said the district can make up much of the loss with growth that’s been happening inside its remaining boundaries. For instance, Johnson Memorial Hospital and Community Health Network are building a $14 million medical office building on State Road 135.

The overall taxable value of property in the fire district increased slightly over the past year, from $727.9 million last year to $730.9 million this year, according to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

But the area annexed into Greenwood east of State Road 135 is poised for development that could have brought the fire department a lot more tax revenue in the future, Ramey said.

“The city was annexing land, and the town was annexing land,” he said. “We were just kind of caught in the middle.”

The Bargersville fire department, which is separate from the town, still serves a sweeping area that includes parts of White River, Union and Franklin townships. Bargersville firefighters handle an area roughly from Stones Crossing Road south to State Road 44, just north of Trafalgar, and from Centerline Road west to the Morgan County line.

Last year, Greenwood annexed about 1,800 acres of land along the east side of State Road 135 south to Whiteland Road that used to be in the Bargersville fire district. That annexation included an area between the state highway and Honey Creek Road and between Stones Crossing and Whiteland roads.

The area includes Harters Auto Service repair shop but is mostly farms and single-family homes, Greenwood Fire Department spokesman Tom Kite said.

Few calls come from that area since it’s sparsely populated, and those calls are mostly for vehicle accidents on State Road 135, Kite said. He estimates that Greenwood is responsible for about a dozen more calls a year as a result of the annexation of part of the Bargersville fire district.

Major development hasn’t taken place on the east side of the highway, Greenwood Fire Chief James Sipes said, and he didn’t expect many more runs to the area anytime soon.

If Greenwood were called to a fire or other major emergency in that newly annexed area, Bargersville likely would send a fire truck or two to help out, Sipes said. Greenwood would do the same for a similar call on the west side of the highway, he said.

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