All six of Brown County’s volunteer fire departments will get an equal share of “timber sale” money which Brown County received from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Each department — Brown County (Nashville), Cordry-Sweetwater, Fruitdale, Hamblen, Jackson and Van Buren — will receive $8,000.
The county received a total of $86,975.99. That’s 15 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of timber on state-owned land in Brown County.
Since 1984, counties have been required to distribute part of their share of timber money to local fire departments which have cooperative agreements with the Division of Forestry. A 2006 amendment requires counties to distribute half of what they get to fire departments, but no less than $1,000 per department.
The other half is deposited into the county’s general fund.
The total each department had coming to it was up to $7,248, commissioner Diana Biddle said. She made a motion to support that amount.
From the audience, Brown County Council President David Critser suggested giving each fire department $8,000, because firefighting is “the cheapest public safety we have in this county.” All fire stations are manned by volunteers and funded partially by property taxes and partially through fundraisers and donations.
The commissioners had been considering withholding money to Van Buren Volunteer Fire Department, since that group has been involved in a lawsuit with the Van Buren Township trustee and advisory board for nearly two years. However, that had not been Biddle’s motion.
Beth Mulry, speaking as a Van Buren Township resident, asked whether the commissioners should exclude Van Buren Township since they were in litigation against another county official. “I’m not taking a stand on the litigation itself, but I’m questioning that,” she said.
Ben Kibbey, a Brown County (Nashville) volunteer firefighter and president of the Associated Firefighters of Brown County, cautioned the commissioners against “taking any action that could be seen as symbolic.”
He said this is money coming to the county from the DNR. He argued that local fire departments that have agreements with the DNR to “work with them on, basically, protecting Brown County’s natural resources here” — which all six in Brown County do — should receive it. Van Buren has been out fighting wildfires in its own territory and others, he said. It’s not much money considering that a fire truck can cost six figures, but every little bit helps, he said.
“I would caution anything, considering the history in this county, that singles out any one department or encourages division in any way,” Kibbey said. Commissioners President Dave Anderson said he had no intention of doing that.
The amended motion to give $8,000 to all six departments passed unanimously.
County Attorney Jake German, during his report later in the meeting, encouraged Brown Countians who “feel like cutting down trees may not be a good thing” to think about how that money benefits local fire departments. He called state-owned timber “a viable resource of Brown County.”