Palmerton's new, $1.2 million, three-bay fire station has been completed and a new fire company is in the works.

Borough manager Rodger Danielson said additional space remains to be finished as necessary, and use determined, at the two-story, five-door station at Fifth Street and Lehigh Avenue.

The fire station was built by CC Construction Services of Allentown, which was awarded a contract to construct it in the amount of $1,249,000.

In October 2010, the borough accepted a grant presented by then Speaker of the House Keith McCall, for the purchase of a new fire station. It was determined at that time that the borough would utilize that grant, along with $35,000 from the borough's general fund, to cover the $940,000 cost to construct the fire station.

Danielson said at that time the new station was built with a $906,000 grant the borough received, and funds the borough had available.

The station has double entry from both Lehigh Avenue, as well as the alley between Delaware Avenue and Lehigh Avenue, he said. The station also has room to house up to five vehicles, Danielson said.

The two-story fire station consists of 5,880 square feet of unfinished space in the first floor, and 1,736 square feet of unfinished space in the second floor.

In addition, there are two access driveways, a small parking area, and various utility service connections.

New fire company

The completion of the fire station coincides with the likely formation of the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company.

Earlier this month, council, on a 5-1 vote, agreed to advertise an ordinance that would establish the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company.

Council is scheduled to vote on the matter when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Danielson said at that time the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company would work in tandem with West End Fire Co. 2 as members of the Palmerton Fire Department.

He added that the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company would be run under the fire chief appointed by council. Membership will be made through the borough.

At that time, it was announced that the borough will accept applications for membership to the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company.

Applications will be available at the borough office, located at 443 Delaware Ave.

Two companies,

one department

So, what exactly does the formation of the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company mean?

Costenbader attempted to explain the situation.

"At this point in time, we have a building (and) we are looking for volunteers to man that building," Costenbader said. "That's coming along very well; we have had some applicants, and hope to get this thing up and running as soon as we can."

Costenbader said the building should be open at the beginning of the year."

He was less certain what exactly would be housed inside the station's quarters.

"I don't know that it's been determined what equipment will be housed there at this point," he said. "We did establish this new fire company, however, and we named it as one of the official fire companies."

Costenbader added, "It's a designated fire company to fight fires in the community. Also, West End Fire Co. No. 2 is also named as an official designated fire company."

"It's two fire companies under one fire department."

In the meantime, Costenbader said West End Fire Company No. 2 will continue to operate out of its quarters.

Decision to

build new station

The borough's decision to build a new fire station didn't come without its share of controversy.

Costenbader said the process got under way in June of 2009 as part of a meeting held to consolidate both fire companies. Due to the consolidation, the belief was that there should be a new station to house all the equipment at one location.

As a result, Costenbader said the borough applied for the grant. After its third application, the borough received the grant for a new fire station, he said.

"Basically, (Palmerton) fire company No. 1 joined West End Fire Company No. 2 (several years back)," Costenbader said. "At that point, it was recommended by the fire company that we ought to have one building to put the equipment in."

That June, Costenbader said the fire company formed a building committee, at which point the borough received a letter from the committee with a list of four proposed sites for the station: Renovate the current fire house; put one at Fifth and Delaware Avenue; put one at Fifth and Lehigh Avenue; or put one at the Third Street complex.

Costenbader said the process got under way in June of 2009 as part of a meeting held to consolidate both fire companies. Due to the consolidation, the belief was that there should be a new station to house all the equipment at one location.

Costenbader added, "We had taken their recommendation as far as the architect to have something more centrally located in the community.

"We have a 100-foot ladder truck, the tallest buildings are in the downtown here; it just seemed to me that that made more sense, and we ended up with (building the new station) at Fifth and Lehigh."

Council agreed in October 2012 on 6-0 vote to build the station in the borough lot, a decision that came several weeks after council again failed to support a motion to not construct a new fire station.

At that time, Councilman Kris Hoffner made a motion to end the planning and building of a new station. That motion died for lack of a second.

Hoffner also made a motion in July 2012 to not proceed with plans to build a new station, which was defeated by a 4-3 measure. Mayor Chris Olivia, who was council vice president at the time, then made a motion to build a new fire station, which died due to the lack of a second.

In March 2012, the borough received a letter from the Palmerton Fire Department with 25 signatures from members who said they wanted the grant money that was received for the new fire station to be returned to the state, because their current facilities were fine.

That letter was in response to council's plan to build a new fire station near the intersection of Third Street and Avenue B.

At the next meeting, Olivia asked the firefighters if they were opposed to building a three-bay garage at Third Street, to which it was stated they weren't if the borough wasn't able to return the money.

Hoffner said at that meeting the borough could either send the money back to the state; build a two- or three-bay building; or send the money back to another fire department in need.

Joe Rogowitz, then-president of the Palmerton Fire Department, said at that time the fire company's preferred option was for the borough to send the money back, or send it to another community in need of it.

He said at that time that if the borough wanted to build a three-bay garage, and leave everything at the West End, there wouldn't be a problem.

The problem, Rogowitz said, was if the borough would take the trucks out of the West End and move them.

That came after nearly 30 members of the fire company swarmed council chambers in February 2012, opposed to the borough's decision at that time to build a new station near the intersection of Third Street and Avenue B.

Firefighters told council at that session to return the grant the borough received in April 2010 to construct a new fire station. If not, the firefighters at the time threatened to walk out over time.