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INDIANAPOLIS — One fire department wants to merge with another, and one step was taken closer to that in Indianapolis.

Wayne Township trustees voted unanimously (5-0) to merge with the Indianapolis Fire Department by as early as next year. The merger agreement still has to be reviewed and approved by the Indianapolis City-County Council.

It was a tough decision to make for trustees, but trustee Jeb Bardon said it was a painful but necessary decision.

“We have been outspending the tax revenue coming in, and that’s related to our contract with the firefighters that causes that expenditure to exceed the revenue,” Bardon.

Bardon said under the agreement, nothing would change except in branding. Firefighters would have the same benefits, seniority, and salaries as they do now. Civilians employed by the fire department will also be retained, although it’s not guaranteed they will be brought on in the same job under IFD.

During last night’s trustee meeting, there were some people who expressed concern that the merger may cause longer response times for emergencies.

No fire stations in Wayne Township will close under the merger and response times will not be impacted.

“This has happened in five other townships plus the city of Beech Grove,” Bardon said. “Services do not decline. Stations stay where they are, they stay open they stay fully staffed.”

Simply put, the Wayne Township Fire Department needs cash, and Bardon said this merger will deliver that cash from a much wider tax base. He said they need lots of upgrades in the form of new fire trucks, and renovations to on fire station, not to mention funds to keep up with retirement benefits for firefighters.

If the city approved the merger it could take effect as early as 2025. Wayne Township has already entered into an agreement to merge its ambulance and paramedic service with the city, which will take effect later this year.