By the skin of its teeth, a municipal fire company has been formed in Palmerton

By a narrow 4-3 margin, borough council on Thursday agreed to adopt an ordinance to establish the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company as an officially recognized fire company to provide fire protection and related services to the borough.

Councilmen Kris Hoffner, Richard Nothstein, Michael Ballard, and council President Terry Costenbader were in favor. Councilmen Jason Behler, Jeremy Barbosa, and Councilwoman Holly Sell were opposed.

Sell said she was opposed to the ordinance because it "takes us back to having two fire companies as the borough did before. I'm concerned with that."

"I appreciate the committee's time, but I have concerns on how that's moving forward," Sell said. "It seems like we're going back."

Costenbader said, "The way we're going forward is the (Palmerton) municipal fire company is under the control of the Borough of Palmerton."

He added that before the former Palmerton Fire Company No. 1 was dissolved several years ago, both it, as well as the West End Fire Company No. 2, had their own charters.

Who's in charge?

But Sell said she was concerned what might happen at the scene of a potential fire.

Costenbader told Sell that if the West End Fire Company would respond to the scene of a fire, members would be under the instruction of the borough fire chief and assistant fire chief.

"If there's anyone that acts negatively, they have the authority to remove them from the fire scene," Costenbader said. "The municipal fire company down here is in charge of the fire department in this community."

However, Sell said she believes the borough will be asking a lot from its fire chief and assistant fire chief.

Costenbader agreed with Sell on that point, and added, "Yes, you're saying it's a lot of responsibility, and yes it is ..."

Sell said, "I think it's going to create a lot of issues."

Nothstein said he's confident the two fire companies will be able to work together and be successful.

Firefighters and fire police submitted applications for membership to the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company.

After about a 20-minute executive session, council, on a 6-0 vote, agreed to appoint 16 firefighters and six fire police as members of the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company:

Larry Zawaly, fire chief; Dennis Behler, assistant fire chief; Gerard Babb; Jason Beers; Matthew Degolyer; Jonathan Deibert; Anthony Hollenbach; Michael Kercsmar; Timothy Kilpatrick; Christina Obrecht; Brandon O' Donnell; Michael Rauch; Brian Rehrig; Rob Sell; Greg Steward; and Greg Vlossak were among the firefighters approved for membership, with Bryon Bonser; Michele Bonser; Sheryl Degolyer; Nathan Garis; William Ramer; and Ryan Shupp approved as fire police.

Sell abstained from the vote.

Voting againstordinance

After the meeting Behler, Barbosa, and Sell discussed why they voted against the ordinance.

"I believe it's a step backward," Behler said. "I don't feel it is in the best interest for fire protection for the borough."

Barbosa said, "I feel it wasn't the goal we set out for. It wasn't the final product."

Sell said, "I don't believe two separate companies is in the best interest of the community."

Applications are still being accepted for membership to the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company, and are available at the borough office, located at 443 Delaware Avenue.

Costenbader previously said the establishment of the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company will result in two fire companies the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company, and West End Fire Company No. 2 under the Palmerton Fire Department.

He said the building should be open at the beginning of the year, though he was uncertain what exactly would be housed inside the station's quarters.

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

New station

The formation of the Palmerton Municipal Fire Company coincides with the completion of the borough's new, $1.2 million, three-bay fire station.

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 build 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 build 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.