Township fire companies discuss future funding needs

LIMERICK — A presentation to the township supervisors Tuesday night detailed the funding challenges and aspirations of Limerick’s two fire companies over the next year and beyond.

“Growth in the township is dictating what we do in the fire service,” Limerick Fire Company Chief Ken Shuler said during his portion of the presentation.

Beginning in 2014, Limerick and Linfield fire companies both hope to conduct expansions and renovations on their fire stations to accommodate growth within the township and needs not currently addressed.

Since 1990, the county population has grown threefold from approximately 6,000 to more than 18,000.

Currently, there are 106 members of the two companies that respond to emergencies, including fire police.

Limerick Fire Company’s station renovation, which was detailed during a similar meeting last year, is estimated at running between $650,000 and $1.3 million.

It would include office and storage space, men’s and women’s quarters for the ambulance crew stationed there full-time,

“We minimize as much as we can and we’re still running out of space,” Shuler said.

The expansion for that station is set for the third quarter of 2014.

Meanwhile, Linfield’s station requires seeking similar expansions which would run approximately $850,000.

Linfield Chief Joe Reagan put special emphasis on having sleeping and showering quarters.

“We have no way of manning our station during a natural disaster,” he said.

He also said the need for storage space at the current facility has taken over much of the station, meaning there’s no rental space left, which would help raise funds for Linfield’s service.

Construction there would begin in the second quarter of 2014.

On top of that, Reagan said Linfield is looking to upgrade the truck and trailer used for its water rescue elements, which currently utilize a 34-year-old van.

Like last year, the fire companies presented on building a training facility in the township which would feature burn rooms.

Currently, the fire companies have to leave the township for West Chester or Reading to get similar training and, usually, those facilities are completely booked up on weekends when it’d be easiest to do them.

Although he didn’t have figures at Tuesday’s meeting, Reagan said the facility could be rented out to other fire companies and become a revenue generator.

The typical life cycle of such a facility is 10 years, he said.

Both fire chiefs warned that fundraising efforts within the township’s fire companies have been maxed-out and that they feared a “burnout” if they have to keep putting in so much effort.

“It’s not going to continue at this level,” Shuler said.

Some fundraisers aren’t nearly as lucrative as the effort put in, the chiefs said.

Shuler said Limerick Fire Company’s annual fair generally takes 400 man hours to put on and just raises $1,000. The Oyster and Ham Supper didn’t make enough money anymore, which is why it was cancelled.

The Mother’s Day breakfast at Linfield Fire Company is in a similar vein.

“We almost feel like we do these more for a public relations thing now,” Reagan said.

Township Fire Safety Chief Greg Breyer said demands of firefighters are increasing and Pennsylvania’s regulations for apparatus and equipment has become more stringent.

In the past, he said, individual fire chiefs could determine for themselves when equipment needed to be replaced. Now, state regulations require replacement every ten years, approximately.

To aid in funding, Breyer said a township assistance fund needs to be established to supplement the relief fund which utilizes state tax dollars.

The township funding program could take the face of a capital project assistance program or even utilizing the township’s borrowing power for larger programs.

Breyer also went over the inspection protocol he’ll oversee as well as the revamp of his department which was earlier detailed by Township Manager Dan Kerr.

In the reorganization, Breyer’s department will become head of fire safety and inspections while the department under the current zoning and codes enforcement officer Greta Martin Washington, will focus purely on zoning and further development in the township.

Breyer said the new set-up would allow for cross-training in inspections and fire safety, as opposed to needing separate employees to do separate checks.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.

Join the Conversation