TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Among those on hand Thursday to accept the $906,000 grant secured by state Rep. Keith McCall for the eventual construction of a new fire station in Palmerton, are from left, council President Terry Costenbader; West End Fire Co. No. 2 Assistant Chief Dennis Behler; McCall; West End Fire Co. No. 2 Chief Joseph Kercsmar; and council Vice-President Chris Olivia.
A new fire station for Palmerton just become a lot more affordable.
Borough officials and members of the West End Fire Co. No. 2 gathered inside borough hall on Thursday to meet with Speaker of the House Keith McCall.
At that time, McCall presented them with a $906,000 check for the purchase of a state-of-the-art fire station. The grant came courtesy of gaming revenue from Mount Airy Casino in Monroe County.
A veteran volunteer firefighter in Summit Hill, McCall said the grant was a "small token" of what the commonwealth can do for its volunteer firefighters.
"Our volunteers provide us with so much without any thought of compensation," McCall said. "This money will save the taxpayers of Palmerton (nearly) one million dollars."
Fire Chief Joseph Kercsmar was clearly moved.
"Thank you for your part in this gift," Kercsmar said. "I believe a station being in one house will increase our coverage area and our response time to be able to do a better job."
While borough officials haven't determined exactly where the new fire station will be located, borough manager Rodger Danielson said different alternatives are being reviewed for the design.
Danielson, who said the grant will cover the "vast majority" of the expenses, added that while the borough is permitted to have the station at Third Street, other alternatives may be considered as well.
"We want to get all our equipment and firefighters in a centralized station," Danielson said. "The consolidation will improve our efficiency, and we hope to be under construction by this summer."
For years, Danielson said West End Fire Co. No. 2 and Palmerton Fire Co. No. 1 comprised the same department.
In June of 2009, council announced that the Palmerton Fire Co. No. 1 would cease with the swearing in of West End Fire Co. No. 2.
As a result, all of the assets of Palmerton Fire Co. No. 1 were dissolved, and council agreed to consolidate the fire companies.
In all, a total of $12,506,892 in Mount Airy gaming revenues generated by the Pennsylvania Horse Race and Gaming Development Act or Act 71 was distributed to Monroe and counties contiguous to it back in June.
Under the act, counties contiguous to Monroe are eligible to receive some of the revenue that is generated at the casino. The money will help fund a total of 34 projects that range from library construction and improving and creating parks to road repairs and restoring buildings.
The funding is distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Local Share Assessment account.
To qualify for funding, each project had to show that it will serve the public interest and promote economic and community development.