North Apollo Council to consider on Monday eliminating fire fee over fire department’s objections
For the second time in less than two years, North Apollo Council will consider eliminating the borough’s fire fee that provides the borough’s volunteer fire department with more than half its budget.
Township Manager Tracy Miller confirmed the fire fee would be on the agenda for Monday’s meeting but wouldn’t comment further.
Residents have paid the fee every year since 2013 to support the North Apollo Volunteer Fire Department.
The fee costs businesses $80 a year and residents between $40 and $50 per year.
The fee is collected by the borough and turned over to the fire department. Borough officials audit the department once a year to make sure the money is being used correctly.
Council voted in March 2017 to keep the fire fee after receiving feedback from dozens of residents who wanted it to remain.
After that decision, the fire department and borough came to an agreement to have more transparency with the department’s financial records and monthly meetings.
Fire department President Jeff Walker said the department has upheld those agreements, and he doesn’t know why it’s being brought up again.
“Our books were checked for accuracy, our meetings are open to the public -- we’ve cooperated 110 percent of our end,” he said.
Walker said the department wouldn’t be able to survive very long if it isn’t getting the fire fee money. It would eventually have to close.
“It is going to hurt,” he said. “Every department around is struggling.”
Borough officials said last year the reason they were considering eliminating it was because of the cost to the residents.
A message left for council President Don Acker seeking more information wasn’t returned Friday.
Walker said the department has about 15 to 20 active firefighters and responds to about 120 calls each year.
He didn’t have exact numbers but said the department’s budget is about $60,000 per year.
The fire fee brings in about $34,000.
He said the department has increased its fundraising efforts to try to get more money but said fundraising only gets it so far.
“I just feel like as the president I have to figure out something, and I don’t know what to do,” Walker said. “A fire department is an important asset.”
This wouldn’t be the first time the borough has had to suspend one of its emergency services.
The borough contracts with Kiski Township for its police coverage instead of having its own police force.