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October 14, 2011

Logan mayoral candidates talk about fire protection, LMU

LOGANSPORT — All three Logansport mayoral candidates agreed Thursday night that the city and county should be working together but disagreed on how far that partnership should go.

“In order to work together, we have to realize there are two separate entities,” Democratic Mayor Mike Fincher said during a candidate forum at McHale Performing Arts Complex.

Independent candidate Seger Mathew said city officials should be willing to give up some power to forge a closer relationship with the county — if only for the financial gain that could result.

“We have enough money to operate now, but we don’t have enough to grow on,” Mathew said.

Republican Ted Franklin sees government consolidation as the “wave of the future” and a necessity to survive. He said Logansport should be working more closely with the county.

He cited the city’s veto of the fire territory last year as a prime example of what Logansport shouldn’t be doing.

“That cost the city $700,000, and not just this year but every year,” he said. “We have to get that back.”

The three men’s comments came during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Cass County and Logansport-Cass County Chamber of Commerce. About 100 residents attended the event, which also featured candidates for Logansport City Council, Galveston Town Council and Royal Center clerk-treasurer.

Fincher disagreed with Franklin’s assessment of the city working with the fire district. The two men squared off in the mayoral election four years ago.

Fincher said it wasn’t costing the city $700,000 a year. In fact, he said, it wasn’t costing Logansport anything.

When asked, Fincher said he has no intention of allowing the city to join the fire district.

“Putting city dollars in the fire district — it’s not necessary,” he said. “It is about the money.”

Newcomer Mathew said he’d be in favor of joining the district, but for Franklin, it was non-negotiable.

“I support reunification of the fire departments, period,” said Franklin, a fire investigator for Logansport Fire Department. “We don’t care how much it costs if it’s our families.”

His remark prompted applause from many people sitting in the audience.

He said if he’s elected, the two fire departments would merge.

Mathew said the mayor has less control in this issue. It was a decision made by the City Council.

“We’re just an administrator in this,” he said.

Fincher defended his veto, saying the City Council was wrong to “randomly give up control” of the fire department in the first place. But now that the fire district has formed, Fincher's plan is simply to get along with the new entity.

“We have to be able to work together,” he said.

Fincher said he would entertain the idea of having a mutual aid agreement with the district.

The candidates’ ideas aligned more on the issue of what Logansport Municipal Utilities should do with its power plant.

Mathew said the generators at LMU are small and inefficient.

“If we don’t have the money to upgrade the plant, then we should look at who can help us,” he said.

Franklin said the Utility Service Board did the right thing by hiring a consultant because no one in the city has the expertise to figure out how to make the plant viable again.

Fincher and Mathew both agreed that the city should be looking at alternative fuel sources. Fincher suggested solar power and using gas turbines.

When asked, all three candidates said that the mayor’s position is a full-time job, especially after the city eliminated the deputy mayor.

• Lindsey Ziliak is a staff writer at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or lindsey.ziliak@pharostribune.com.

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