Volunteer fire crew may not get share of taxes

DUNCANSVILLE – A agreement requiring Blair Township to allocate 50 percent of its Local Services Tax revenue to the Duncansville Volunteer Fire Department will likely end later this year.

The current agreement, valid through the end of October, will remain in place unless the township or the fire company offers an advance notice of its desire not to renew.

When supervisors held their annual reorganization meeting on Monday, they again designated that 50 percent of the LST revenue – paid by those who work in the township – will be divided between the police department and highway department.

The remaining 50 percent will be set aside for the Duncansville Volunteer Fire Department.

Solicitor Frederick Gieg Jr. said he believed that once the agreement expires, supervisors will be in a position to consider alternative options.

“We have other fire companies and departments that could use it,” Supervisor Patricia Steward said of the Local Services Tax revenue.

In February 2010, Steward and fellow supervisor Eric Prendergast spoke out against the agreement and voted to rescind recognition of the Duncansville Volunteer Fire Department as the township’s primary responder. Supervisors said they had nothing against the fire department, but didn’t like the agreement or the financial obligation.

For years, Blair Township residents have depended on five volunteer fire companies in surrounding municipalities. But in 2007, the idea of a joint Blair Township-Duncansville fire department surfaced, along with the possibility of constructing a new firehouse in the Wye Switches area.

The proposed joint department drew support from then-supervisors David Burchfield Sr., Palmer Brown and Arlene Bush. But it prompted questions from residents and neighboring fire departments who said the joint department, based on its location, would take longer to respond to areas that other fire departments could reach faster.

David Skurnick of the Duncansville Volunteer Fire Department said his department’s firefighters have been and will remain committed to serving local municipalities, including Blair Township.

“That’s what our focus has always been,” he said.

The department still owns the Wye Switches land where it intended to build the new firehouse, he said. But those plans didn’t move forward “because we didn’t have the cooperation of the township,” Skurnick said.

Gieg said he will take a look at the current agreement and the township’s options. If supervisors want to end the agreement, Gieg suggested they take action by June to meet a time frame in the current agreement.

Skurnick said he couldn’t comment on the department’s position regarding the future of the agreement.

“To my knowledge, we’ve had no discussion,” he said.