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North Apollo residents support paying fire fee

Emily Balser
| Monday, March 6, 2017, 11:50 p.m.
Among the majority of the room at the North Apollo Fire Hall, Paul Zimmerman of North Apollo raises his hand to show his support for continuing the fire fee charged to residents and businesses during a council meeting on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Among the majority of the room at the North Apollo Fire Hall, Paul Zimmerman of North Apollo raises his hand to show his support for continuing the fire fee charged to residents and businesses during a council meeting on Monday, March 6, 2017.
North Apollo Fire Department President Josh McKendree discusses a potential audit of fire department finances during a council meeting at the North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
North Apollo Fire Department President Josh McKendree discusses a potential audit of fire department finances during a council meeting at the North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Paul Walsh, a resident of North Apollo for 40 years, asks a question regarding the fire fee during a council meeting at the North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Paul Walsh, a resident of North Apollo for 40 years, asks a question regarding the fire fee during a council meeting at the North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Ray Rusz of North Apollo states his support for the fire fee during the council meeting held at North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Ray Rusz of North Apollo states his support for the fire fee during the council meeting held at North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
North Apollo Mayor John Durandetto states his support for the fire department during a council meeting at North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
North Apollo Mayor John Durandetto states his support for the fire department during a council meeting at North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
North Apollo Fire Police Capt. William Baum listens as fire Chief Chris Kerr discusses fundraising issues with borough council at its meeting at the fire hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
North Apollo Fire Police Capt. William Baum listens as fire Chief Chris Kerr discusses fundraising issues with borough council at its meeting at the fire hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
North Apollo Council President Laura Ford discusses the fire fee being administered to residents and businesses that provides money for the fire department during a council meeting at North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
North Apollo Council President Laura Ford discusses the fire fee being administered to residents and businesses that provides money for the fire department during a council meeting at North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
North Apollo Fire Department President Josh McKendree (right, rear) listens intently to the discussion about the borough's fire fee at the North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
North Apollo Fire Department President Josh McKendree (right, rear) listens intently to the discussion about the borough's fire fee at the North Apollo Fire Hall on Monday, March 6, 2017.

North Apollo residents and businesses will continue to pay a fire fee that provides the borough's volunteer fire department with about 60 percent of its budget.

The fee will remain at $40 to $50 a year for residents and $80 a year for businesses.

North Apollo Council voted 4-0 Monday to keep the fee in place.

Council reconsidered the fee after some residents complained.

Council President Laura Ford said last week if the borough didn't impose the fee “we'll probably lose our fire department.”

Fire officials say the fee generates about $34,000 of the department's $55,000 budget.

The borough collects the fee and turns it over to the fire department.

Dozens of residents attended council's meeting Monday to express support for the fire department.

No one spoke against the fee.

“I was very surprised to have pretty much all the comments be positive,” said Josh McKendree, fire department president.

He said he was relieved to know the department will still be receiving the nearly $34,000 the fee brings in each year.

Several residents expressed an interest in serving the fire department by becoming a social member to help with fundraising to reduce pressure on the fire department's budget.

“It is very encouraging,” McKendree said.

Ford was happy with the meeting turnout.

“We, as a community, have to realize this is an asset to our community,” she said. “We need to be behind them.”

Resident Gerald Hawk came to support the fire department.

“Saving your life is priceless,” Hawk said. “We need to have our local firemen close by.”

Resident Mark Anderson said the fire hall is a good community center for residents. The fire department regularly holds events and fundraisers at its social hall.

“I wouldn't want to see this town without it,” Anderson said.

More transparency sought

Although council decided to keep the fee in place, it is considering changing rules to show how the money is spent more transparent.

The borough reviews the department's records once a year.

Councilwoman Dana Baustert said she would like to see the department turn over receipts for all its purchases instead of just a list.

McKendree said the department just updated its accounting software in an effort to be more organized.

“There's no impropriety happening,” McKendree said.

The fire department will also start making its monthly meetings open to the public, which was a stipulation that had not been implemented.

The department will change its bylaws to ensure the meetings are public — starting today, when a meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the fire hall, located at 311 16th St.

McKendree said it was an oversight on the fire department's part not to change the bylaws to open the meetings to the public.

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680 or emilybalser@tribweb.com.

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