Indiana bill calls for Toll Road to pay fire departments

| 1/2/2009

The Indiana Toll Road would be required to pay fire departments that respond to emergency calls on the roadway, if two state lawmakers get their way.

Senate Republicans Marlin Stutzman, of Howe, and Joe Zakas, of Granger, have filed a bill for consideration during the session, which begins Jan. 12, that would establish a schedule of charges for services based on the fire marshals’ recommended schedule.

“The Toll Road has changed to become a for-profit operation now, but it does not pay property taxes like other businesses,” Zakas said in a released statement. “Homeowners and businesses pay for fire protection by paying property taxes.”

A Spanish-Australian consortium paid $3.8 billion in 2006 to lease the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years. The group does not contribute to funding for emergency services; however, they do pay the state at least $6 million annually for the Indiana State Police to patrol the road.

Fire chiefs along the 157-mile-long highway point out that each run uses fuel and supplies. In addition, departments often must call in off-duty personnel to help protect the remainder of their areas.

Departments throughout the state are further limited in revenues because of the recent cap that was placed on property taxes. The combination of circumstances has many in favor of getting reimbursed for their efforts.

“Our mission is to help people and save lives. To do that, we need adequate personnel and resources,” John Vance, chief of the Harris Township Fire Department, said in a released statement. “Oftentimes an emergency on the Toll Road quickly uses up those resources and requires additional staffing expenses.”

Charges recommended by the state fire marshal provide for a $250 fee per response vehicle or $100 for a control vehicle for an initial response. Other recommendations include the actual replacement cost of expendable materials, such as absorption materials.

The bill – SB177 – is awaiting consideration in the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation & Veterans Affairs Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Indiana in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor