On November 20, 2018 St. Joseph Township Trustee Sarah Uhrick-Gnagy quietly inked a deal with the City of Fort Wayne that would have the City take over fire-related services for the unincorporated areas of the township effective January 1, 2019. For the deal to be signed so soon after the November 6th election leads many to believe this had been in the works for some time, perhaps as early as January 1, 2018, when the relationship between Uhrick-Gnagy and township Fire Chief David Ringer deteriorated to the point where they were communicating only by email. The deal reportedly was negotiated in secret, with not even the Township Board knowing about it until they were told on November 19, 2018.
The Journal-Gazette reported that Uhrick-Gnagy had "been working for months with the city to shore up emergency fire service to the area, which has seen commercial and residential development in recent years. The 23-person volunteer department is ill-equipped to serve the growing area..." This response is 100% bull, and the media did not bother to validate Uhrick-Gnagy's statements.
If you look at the city's annexation map you will notice that prior to the 2000 and 2010 annexations there was a substantial part of the township that was unincorporated, including commercial areas, shopping centers, apartment complexes and university campuses. This area was covered by St. Joseph Township Fire Department (SJTFD), a volunteer fire department consisting of approximately 30 volunteers. If SJTFD was able to cover such a wide area with 30 volunteers, 7 pieces of fire equipment, and 2 ambulances, why was their successor fire department, St. Joseph Township Fire Rescue (SJTFR), created by Trustee Richard Uhrick, unable to do so?
In the Journal Gazette article Trustee Sarah Uhrick-Gnagy lied about the reason for outsourcing fire services to the City of Fort Wayne. Many suspect it was the excuse she used to get rid of Fire Chief David Ringer, with whom she has had a rocky relationship since 2017. Get rid of the fire department...get rid of Ringer. It also allowed her to eliminate her responsibility of oversight for fire service in the township, where Uhrick-Gnagy lacked the knowledge needed to properly manage and supervise the fire department. She inherited Chief David Ringer, along with SJTFR, from her father, former Trustee Richard Uhrick.
Now, let's look at the figures, which I doubt Trustee Uhrick-Gnagy or the Township Board did before making the decision to outsource to the City of Fort Wayne.
In 2017 (figures for 2018 are not available) the township spent $234,995.35 on fire services. The Journal Gazette reports that the agreement between St. Joseph Township and the City of Fort Wayne is worth $312,500 for the year 2019, as follows:
· $250,000 per year for 7 years.
· $50,000 per year for 7 years (fire truck lease)
· $12,500 (for 2019 for fire inspection services)
The City of Fort Wayne will be paying St. Joseph Township $20,000 to lease their existing fire station for the use by the Fort Wayne Police Department. Taking this payment into consideration the cost for 2019 is still $292,500.
Taking the 2019 figure of $292,500 and subtracting the 2017 figure of $234,995 equals $57,505 MORE to contract with the City of Fort Wayne than what it cost to provide the services with SJTFR. Think about this when you read Uhrick-Gnagy's comment in the Journal Gazette: “The cost of the improved fire service is expected to be the same as the township is currently spending and budgeting for the volunteer department,” Gnagy said in the statement. Based on the township’s own numbers it does not appear that they are spending the same as they did for volunteer service. This begs the question of whether Uhrick-Gnagy even looked at the numbers. Did the Township Board look at the numbers, or simply rubber-stamp Uhrick-Gnagy’s request to outsource to the City of Fort Wayne?