Tower City Council looks to increase tax rate for fire protection

By Joan Schwer, Correspondent

TOWER CITY – Councilman and volunteer fireman Marcus Riddell informed council April 11 that a fire company representative wants to come to monthly meeting to give an oral report. He followed that request with a somber report of the financial condition of the fire company.
According to Riddell, the company’s equipment is getting old, and a new fire truck would cost between $250,000 and $350,000. Along with a new truck, the building would need to be modified at an estimated cost of $10,000. The most urgent need, however, is ten new air-packs at an estimated purchase price of $85,000.
“The volunteers spend countless hours at fires and fund raising,” said Riddell. “They train weekly. The company is a family.”

Currently the borough pays Worker’s Comp and other insurances. Although $18,000 had been budgeted last year, according to secretary Irene Dubbs, the bills totaled $18,147.
Riddell suggested the council enact a three mill property tax dedicated to the fire company which he said would raise $40,000. That figure was corrected by Chairman Bruce Schneck who estimated $33 or $34,000 since 100% is never collected.
Riddell noted that the volunteers had agreed they would no longer send the fund drive letters and would hold only two fund raisers each year, and as a thank you to the active members, they would be exempt. Bob Shuey questioned whether the company would be loosing money by giving up the appeal letter.
According to Riddell, the letter only raises about $2,000.
A resident noted his agreement of a fire tax, “But,” said Matt Wolmer, “that’s just a band-aid. They got to merge with the other fire companies.”
According to Riddell, Tower City had backed out of discussing a merger last June and there are now only three out of five Porter Township companies still talking about merging.
In Nov 2014, Reinerton, Muir, Joliett, Orwin, and Sheridan Fire Companies, plus Tower City began talking about merging. Riddell had noted then that each company had expenses totaling $22,000 per year, while the average municipal donation was $4,000.
Following a brief discussion, the council agreed to gather the information needed to get a referendum on the November 2016 ballot to increase the borough’s tax rate up to 5 mills for fire protection. The borough’s current assessment of $12,518,145 would bring in $12,518 for each mill providing a 100% collection rate was reached.
Recreation chairlady Yvonne Adams provided a swimming pool report. The pool, she said, is scheduled to open on June 3. There is, however, a dire need for life guards. Since Elizabethville has too many, they have been contacted for assistance. This year’s officers, she said, are the same as last year. A ‘clean-up’ weekend is tentatively scheduled for May 21 and 22, depending on weather conditions. The borough, she said, has agreed to pay ½ of the cost of the initial fill-up of the pool.
Adams submitted a letter of recommendation for the appointment of Maggie Kresling as a borough representative to the Recreation Board. Kresling, it was noted, has worked with board chairlady Bonnie Raho as a volunteer for many years. Her appointment was unanimously approved by the council.
Adams also reported that June 27 to July 2 is ‘Old Home Week’ with fire-works scheduled for the final day.
Grass mowing at the pool was discussed again and it was agreed Riddell would discuss a working arrangement with the township since the borough had agreed years ago to share the work.
The purchase of signs was also discussed again. A suggestion to include no parking on both sides of Second Street was made. Since the solicitor was not present, the council agreed to table that until next month. They did agree, however, that 30 ‘No Parking’ signs, plus posts and holes, should be ordered from Fazzio, Pottsville.
Riddell noted there is a line of site issue at East Grand and South Fourth Street and the yellow curb should be extended. He also questioned why the “No Parking Except Sundays and Holidays” sign was there and was told it was for the benefit of people attending the church.
Schneck again suggested councilmembers and the road crew make a list of missing signs and other problem areas for discussion at next month’s meeting.
In related business, Schneck said he would contact a prison to request help with curb painting. Adams noted that painting curbs, plus fire hydrants, would also be a good project for Boy Scouts.
The council agreed to accept PPL’s offer to replace borough street lights with LED bulbs. Since the borough does not have any bulbs less than ten years old, there will not be a charge. According to Schneck, the PPL projects a $400 per month savings.
Information was received that Schuylkill Community Action has $160,994 available for housing rehabilitation in 2016. Repairs should address health, safety, code violations, energy inefficiencies, accessibility, modifications, and lead based paint hazards. Call 570-622- 1995 for information.
Schneck informed the members that the borough has spent $2,695 to date for the Code Enforcement Officer’s work on the DeHaan properties. A fine of $1,600 had been given but Schneck was unsure how it will be paid. Another letter from the CEO to DeHaan was unclaimed.
In other business, the borough is now the new owner of the lot next to their salt shed on Church Lane, purchased from Mike Keiter.
Beginning on May 9, the borough’s streets will be swept. Rain date is May 16.
The Third Annual Gold Mine Road Litter Cleanup’, sponsored by The Great American Cleanup, will be held 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., Saturday, May 21. To volunteer call 7l7-507- 6692, and checkout the facebook page, “3 rd Annual Gold Mine Road Litter Cleanup”.
Only one resident was in attendance complaining about the two blighted properties in the 700 block of East Grand Avenue, one with a hole in the roof where pigeons go to roost. According to Schneck one is being worked on. The resident noted that he had gotten a repellant which is helping to keep them away.

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