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Beech Grove looks to turn fire protection over to Indianapolis

BEECH GROVE, Ind. (WISH) — Beech Grove is examining a proposal that would give the Indianapolis Fire Department responsibility for protection inside the Marion County enclave’s city limits.

Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley said Friday the agreement will give the city better service while also saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It’s money he says could be used for major pay increases for the police department.

Buckley said the Beech Grove Fire Department firefighters favor the proposal. By a vote of 30-1, they gave their blessing several months ago. All firefighters will become members of the Indianapolis department.

But, some worry the gains wouldn’t offset the loss to the city.

Already, emergencies in Beech Grove often bring an Indianapolis Fire Department engine to the scene. Sometimes, it also means a BGFD engine going to an Indy address.

“If my house is on fire, I want the fire department to show up here,” Buckley said. “I don’t care if it says IFD or Beech Grove. I want a red firetruck sitting in front of my house.”

Buckley would know.

He was fire chief for a decade before retiring and running for public office.

A proposed interlocal agreement would give the responsibility for fire protection inside Beech Grove city limits to Indianapolis for the next 20 years.

“If we are one unit, we can become more effective,” Buckley said. “We can save money and the people of Beech Grove will receive better service.”

The proposed cost in Year 1 would be $3.25 million, with an annual 3% increase.

This year’s Beech Grove Fire Department budget is $3.7 million, with a 4% annual increase historically.

If passed, Buckley said, the change frees up almost $500,000 immediately, money that can be used to invest in the ambulance division, which stays under Beech Grove’s control, as well as provide salary increases to the police department. Buckley would like to see anywhere from $10,000-15,000 pay increases.

Still, the initial council vote was divided 4-3.

“Some people think we’re losing our city with this,” Buckley said. “No Beech Grove is always going to be here. The service is just going to get better.”

The current Beech Grove department will get better pay and pension benefits by becoming IFD employees. Most will stay on at BGFD Station 57. The rest will move to other Indianapolis stations.

The ambulance division of the Beech Grove department will operate from BGFD Station 56.

Buckley believes everyone wins, especially people looking to move to Beech Grove.

“Know that now we have a Class 1 fire department protection in the city of Beech Grove even compounds that, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

There are a few more steps before this becomes official, beginning with the Beech Grove City Council’s Public Safety Committee vote in early August. Any agreement would also need approval from the Indianapolis City-County Council.

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