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New location selected to build fire station

Published February 10. 2012 05:01PM

Palmerton has chosen a different piece of land to construct its new fire station on after its initial location to build fell through.

Borough Council, on a 6-0 vote, with one abstention, agreed on Thursday to proceed with the construction of the fire station at Third Street, near the borough's Public Works complex. Councilman Randolph Gursky abstained.

Borough Manager Rodger Danielson said council thought the area best to build.

"There's considerable land there; it's already owned by the borough," Danielson said. "The design has to be worked up now to fit that property where they're going to locate it."

Danielson said that despite the location change, construction is still expected to occur this year.

Council's action comes one month after it reneged on the purchase of a pair of properties at 509-511 Lehigh Ave. After a brief executive session, council at that time agreed to rescind a prior resolution to obtain those properties.

That decision came after council, on a pair of 5-2 votes in November, adopted two separate resolutions for each of the properties adjacent to the borough's Fifth Street parking lot for the purposes of expanding their holdings for the new fire station.

The resolutions concerned the properties at 509-511 Lehigh Ave., which the borough planned to purchase, demolish, and eventually use to house its new fire station. Councilmen Richard Nothstein and Gursky were opposed.

That action came after council in September agreed on a 5-1 vote, with one abstention, to spend nearly $150,000 to purchase the home. At that time, Gursky was opposed, while Nothstein abstained.

Danielson said at that time the homes had been appraised at $70,500, and $75,500. The borough had previously determined that the fire station would be built in the borough lot at Fifth and Lehigh Avenue, he said. He said the borough would use money from its general fund to purchase the property, and that the fire station was expected to be completed by early next summer.

In May, the borough hired S.J. Elton Architect, of Bethlehem, to design the borough's new fire station.

In Oct. 2010, then Speaker of the House Keith McCall presented borough officials and members of the West End Fire Co. No. 2 with a $906,000 check for the purchase of a new fire station.

The borough will 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.

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.

Danielson previously said the grant - which came courtesy of gaming revenue from Mount Airy Casino in Monroe County - would cover the "vast majority" of the expenses.

The borough wants to get all of its equipment and firefighters in a centralized station, and added the consolidation would improve its efficiency, Danielson previously said.

For years, Danielson said, West End Fire Co. No. 2 and Palmerton Fire Co. 2 and Palmerton Fire Co. No. 1 comprised the same department.

That was until June of 2009, when 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.

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.

Also on Thursday, council approved the radio band agreement with Carbon County.

Council approved their end of the agreement, which Danielson estimated would cost the borough about $19,000.

In other business, council:

- Approved a new two-year contract for its Public Works Department, retroactive to Sept. 1, 2011. The contract, which calls for about a 2.5-percent increase (42 cents in year one, 43-cents in year two), will also see an increase in the co-pay by $10 per pay for insurance in both years of the contract.

- Approved a new nonbargaining employees contract, which also calls for about a 2.5-percent increase, as well as a $10 increase in their co-pay.

- Agreed to advertise for the adoption of a handicapped parking ordinance.

- Approved a bid opening for the vacant lot at 910 Edgemont Ave. to be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 21.

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