Shepherdsville wins 1999 suit over fire districts

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - The decision was what city of Shepherdsville officials had been waiting for the past decade.

On Tuesday, Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress ruled that on Sept. 27, 2007, the city of Shepherdsville had a regular fire department.

The decision settles a lawsuit filed in 1999 by the fire taxing districts of Zoneton, Nichols, Mount Washington and Southeast Bullitt.

At that time, the fire districts argued that the city of Shepherdsville had encroached illegally into their territory when it annexed property.

This action by the city would decrease the tax base of the various fire districts. Property owners in the territories in question have been paying fire taxes to the two remaining plaintiffs, as well as property taxes to Shepherdsville.

Since that time, and a trip to the state Court of Appeals, Shepherdsville reached agreements with Zoneton and Mount Washington.

Property owners will now have only a city tax to pay in the affected areas.

At the September 2007 hearing, Burress said there was only one question to answer - on that date, did the city of Shepherdsville have a “regular” fire department.

(See Monday’s edition for comments from the various parties.)

In his ruling, Burress said that Shepherdsville was able to establish that it had a headquarters at the Conestoga government center.

The testimony presented at the 2007 hearing also clearly stated that there was fire equipment and apparatus at the main location. The city also maintains a firehouse behind the old city hall facility.

The final part of the trial dealt with whether Shepherdsville had firefighters in “constant and uninterrupted attendance” at the firehouse to answer calls.

Chief Brad Whittaker testified that a captain and a sergeant were on duty at all times and that, at the time, four people were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Attorney Tim White presented several witnesses who testified that they went to the firehouse on several occasions and could not find anyone in attendance.

However, Burress ruled that the individuals on duty could have been in other parts of the building and were in contact through radio tones and calls from central dispatch at all times.

City attorney Bill Wilson and White submitted the case to Burress on Monday for a final decision.

The ruling can be appealed to the state Court of Appeals, which has heard the case previously and returned it to Bullitt Circuit Court for a decision.