Wednesday, January 17, 2018

UP Fire Truck Purchase Delayed, Tax Break Mulled

Photo by Evan Brandt

THE PASSING OF THE GAVEL: Newly installed Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners President Trace Slinkerd, left, presents Elwood Taylor, who served as commissioners president for 12 years, with a person gavel to thank him for his years of service.

Few enterprises stir more passion, or require more dedication, than volunteer fire service.

In Upper Pottsgrove, where the township's administrative offices are in the basement of the firehouse, the relationship between township and fire company officials is better than it once was.

But that doesn't mean everything always goes smoothly.

Case in point: armed with a price that would increase by $7,000 with the coming of the new year, members of the Upper Pottsgrove Fire Company appeared before the township commissioners Tuesday night with the hope of getting approval for the purchase of a $331,000 fire truck.

It would replace a 1983 pumper the fire company purchased from the North End Fire Company whose parts now qualify as nearly impossible to find.

With the payments on the most recently purchased truck running out in December, and money saved to make the down payment, the fire company hoped the board would agree to the purchase of a smaller, more-versatile pumper that could be had without an increase in spending or taxes.

ROAD WARRIORS: Also recognized Tuesday night was
Upper Pottsgrove's  

road crew, Justin Bean, Joe Alessi
and Jeff Imbody.
The fact that the purchase price was included in the budget just made it seem that much more likely.

But they had not counted on the changing of the guard, the fact that two new commissioners had come on board and had no knowledge of the issue, or that they would be asked to vote on spending that much money the same night they were hearing about it for the first time.

Commissioner Elwood Taylor said it was unfortunate timing, given that it had been discussed at length with the previous board, he had seen a demonstration of the truck and believed the purchase to be a good idea.

But Commissioners President Trace Slinkerd and newly elected commissioner Renee Spaide balked and Commissioner France Krazalkovich was lured by the siren song of a federal grant program the fire company has twice failed to obtain.

The township will have to apply for the grant by next month, but must wait until autumn to find out about the grant, which the fire company gives a slim change of success. Since it will take another year from the time the truck is ordered for it to be delivered, it means another two years of sighting fires with a truck from 1983.

Better news for the fire company and its approximately 20 volunteers is the commissioners seeming willingness to enact an earned income tax break for volunteers who meet certain criteria that could be worth as much as $1,000.

Given that only about six of the company's 20 volunteers actively live in Upper Pottsgrove limits the benefit, but the ordinance the commissioners asked solicitor Matthew Hovey to draft would have a reciprocity clause.

For example, fire volunteers who live in Upper Pottsgrove but run with a different fire company, in Pottstown say, would only get the benefit if the municipality where they volunteer also has a similar tax incentive, as authorized under Act 172 of 2016.

It starts to get a little complicated and the commissioners may abandon that clause after further examination, but that's how it stands now.

In the meantime, here are the Tweets from last night's meeting:


  1. Poor decision on the part of the commissioners to shoot down getting a new vehicle. Things like this are the reason if I'm not mistaken that the fire tax was raised not so long ago. It also doesn't help that some of the commissioners have been notoriously against the fire company especially with any forward moving progress about an organization they really don't understand.

  2. Another reason the 3 pottsgroves and pottstown should merge.

  3. Now you can electronically file, or e-file, your Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT) Form 2290 for any vehicle over 55,000 pounds. Truck Tax Dues