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Coaldale Fire Co. requests 1-mill tax

Published October 12. 2017 12:35PM

Coaldale Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 has spent over 7,000 hours fundraising this year, and another 7,000 maintaining equipment, according to officials.

Despite their regular fundraisers, the department needs more money to maintain its equipment. The solution may be a 1-mill tax dedicated to funding fire service in the borough.

Chief Steven Polischak and Second Assistant Chief Kevin Soberick asked council to consider the idea at its meeting Tuesday night.

“We’re looking to offset the rising cost of maintaining some of the equipment. Anybody in the public service knows about the unfunded mandates that come with it,” Soberick said.

The fire department recently paid off its 2007 KME pumper truck. They are planning to replace a 35-year-old aerial truck. Yearly certifications for their trucks cost thousands of dollars.

The county’s switch to digital 911 radio also impacted the department financially. While firefighters weren’t required to go digital, they would have been unable to communicate via radio with police at a scene if they did not. Soberick said a digital radio handset costs about $4,000.

“This would have bought a lot of equipment, but it’s something we had to do. There’s grant money, but nothing is 100 percent, you have to match,” he said.

The all-volunteer department relies largely on subscriptions and fundraisers to cover expenses.

Polischak said that subscription revenue has dropped to about $10-12,000 today, from about $18-20,000 15 years ago.

They agreed to meet at a future budget workshop meeting to discuss the request. Council Vice President Claire Remington thanked the firefighters for their service to the borough, and their tireless efforts to raise funds.

“I want people to understand that our firefighters are all volunteer men and women. They get very little donations. What they do annually, they don’t get a whole lot,” she said.

Remington said the borough is required to provide fire coverage, and if not for their volunteers, it would need to pay firefighters, which would cost more. She said the fire company has to cover St. Luke’s Miners Campus and the Colonial Square townhouses in addition to the rest of the borough.

Remington also suggested the fire company look to St. Luke’s and even the parent company of Lehigh Anthracite to possibly get more donations.

Council president Angela Krapf praised the firefighters for volunteering long hours in service of the borough.

“It used to look vacant there. Now there’s not a time I go by when someone’s not there doing something,” she said.

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