Berne, townships nearing deal on fire protection

    A long and drawn-out set of negotiations between Berne officials and representatives of the outlying townships over fire protection costs has not yet been completed — but it’s getting closer.
    Berne Mayor Bill McKean said at Monday evening’s city council meeting that township trustees have agreed to recommend that Berne’s proposed 2.8 percent annual increase in fire protection charges be approved by their respective township advisory boards. That agreement, McKean said, comes following a recent meeting in which the township trustees “said they would like to have more discussion next year” before the fees are approved.
    Berne initially had submitted to the townships a 3.5 percent increase in fire service charges for 2013, after several years of imposing a 5 percent annual hike.
    But the township officials balked at the proposed increase.
    “The trustees are saying they don’t have the funds and cannot accept” the increase, McKean said last month. “They say the would be willing to give us the same as they paid last year.”
    McKean met earlier this month with township officials and offered to reduce Berne’s annual increase to 2.8 percent, pending city council’s approval. “I know I went out on a limb, but I will recommend the 2.8 percent hike,” the mayor said. “Our responsibility is to give the best service we can to the rural areas, but it comes at a cost.”
    Council voted 5-0 to present to 2.8 percent hike to the townships.