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‘A Slap in the Face…’
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2023-10-25

            East Greenville Council voted Monday to approve a resolution raising taxes a half mill as part of its 2024 budget. Despite continuing requests for financial assistance from representatives of the East Greenville Fire Company, the members declined to allocate those funds to fire protection or ambulance services.

            Council announced a $37,000 contribution to the company as part of a line-by-line budget deliberation during a public meeting. Chief Jason Wilson described the amount, a $17,000 increase over the current rate, as insufficient. He called it "more of a slap in the face than anything."

            Wilson argued that without a more significant contribution, the company will continue to languish. He told the members that the organization would still be able to pay its bills, but could not replace equipment.

            "We're providing a service for residents, not a place for the [firefighters] to go to have a good time," Wilson said during the meeting.

            President Angie Fegely and Melissa Leinbach voted against the motion to add 0.5 mills to the borough's municipal rate of 6.75. The members also voted unanimously to donate $13,000 to the Upper Perkiomen Valley Ambulance Association from the borough's remaining funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

            The tax increase for property owners is expected to generate approximately $53,000 in additional revenue. Joe Rock offered the motion, saying that it would help prevent the need to avoid a larger increase.

            "All of our costs are going up," Rock said after the meeting.

            Asked why he chose not to dedicate any of the projected funds to the Emergency Services Tax, Rock said the seven members of council did not have the authority to take that action. He expressed support for a voter referendum.

            "I want to know if the people want it," Rock said after the meeting. "I want to know if the people who are currently donating to the fire company would cut back on them if we [passed a dedicated tax.]"

            Wilson argued that the borough's annual contribution towards fire service pales in comparison to Pennsburg and Red Hill. Fegely pushed back, saying that Pennsburg has a much larger commercial tax base and Red Hill does not have its own police department.

            "You can't compare what we contribute to what Pennsburg and Red Hill give," she said.

            Any money received from the borough would go towards the engine room operations, according to fire company President Joe Adam Sr. Wilson told the members it would be used for equipment replacement.

            According to Wilson, the fire company would need to cut services unless the municipal contribution is increased. He said that could include the elimination of fire police, which would force officers of the Borough of East Greenville Police Department to direct traffic for special events.

            Mayor Stephen Wescott suggested that council provide the fire company with a contribution at the end of the year with leftover funds.

            Fegely told him the borough needs that money to pay its bills during the first three months of 2024.

            Vice President John Dingler said the municipality would consider making a secondary payment to the fire company at the end of the first fiscal quarter of next year.

            "We'll keep the issue on our agenda," Dingler said before the vote.

            In other news, the members voted unanimously to award the contract to renovate the interior of the municipal building to a Hereford contractor. Council voted to pay John Membrino no more than $110,000 to complete the work.

            Membrino submitted the lowest of two bids, at $107,000, to complete the work that includes shifting the layout of the room 90 degrees clockwise, removing the wooden pews, installing a semicircle council table against a wall facing north and removal of the existing table and platform where borough officials currently sit.

            Member Douglas Criddle did not attend the meeting. Leinbach participated by telephone.


 

 

 

 

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