ShareThis Page

Kiski Township Fire Department wants to raise funds for social hall

| Friday, May 2, 2014, 1:56 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
State Sen. Don White, left, and State Rep. Jeff Pyle, right, listen to Kiski Township firefighters Rose Steffey, secretary, Mike Bash, center, assistant chief, and Gary Kepple, treasurer, plead for funding for a new fire station at the proposed site on Route 56 during a meeting on Thursday, May 1, 2014.

The Kiski Township Fire Department has few choices: buy a winning lottery ticket, or ask township residents to step up.

The department's 40 active members and 10 other members are seeking to replace their cramped social hall.

The fire department owns about 5 acres along Route 56. They are convinced that a new social hall will rapidly become a community center, a place to have free will Thanksgiving meals and a venue for wedding receptions, said First Assistant Chief Mike Bash.

The circa 1947 social hall has room for 85 people.

“It was a three-bay garage when it was donated by a family in 1947,” Bash said.

That's not big enough to hold bingo or gun bash fundraisers, said fire company treasurer Gary Kepple.

The fire department eventually wants to consolidate its fire trucks and ambulances in a single building.

But first, it needs a bigger headquarters. The estimated price tag is $1 million, said secretary Rose Steffey.

Kiski Township doesn't have a fire tax and doesn't want one, said Bash, who is a township supervisor. “We want to do this on our own, and we think we can do that,” Bash said. The department has an annual budget of about $100,000.

Fire Chief Rich Frain, who is a township supervisor, doesn't like a fire tax.

Frain said the community building plan has been discussed and debated for years by firefighters.

He said the fire department acquired the 5-acre lot years ago.

“We paid to level it out and from that time on, we have talked about the building we need,” he said. “Now, we're ready to move forward, and we hope township residents will help.”

Bash said the older firefighters want to start a fundraiser for the building now so that it can open in about three years.

“We want the community and our younger volunteers to have something after the older members are gone,” Bash said.

When Kepple started as a volunteer 19 years ago, the fire hall had a 1966 tanker truck, a 1972 aerial truck, and a 1999 pumper as well as two brush trucks.

The department has tankers from 2003 and 2007, a rescue truck and medical units.

The fire department provides fire and emergency medical services in a 50 square-mile area and backs up neighboring departments. It makes 250 to 300 fire and ambulance calls each year.

About 30 percent of the township's 4,000 residents annually contribute to operate the fire department “even though we're the first ones people think about when they see smoke or are in an accident,” Kepple said.

“We're hoping for large donations from residents and businesses and hope to get state grants to help us,” Bash said.

State lawmakers visit

Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, and Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City, looked at the tract and talked with the hopeful firefighters.

Both said they will do what they can. But the task won't be easy.“I represent parts of five counties and there are 92 fire companies there,” White said. “They all want brick and mortar help. That's the problem.”

At the same time, White said the state can't afford to lose its volunteer fire companies. Pyle said he has an idea about securing a $500 state grant that will require a local match.

Both lawmakers encouraged the department to ask township residents to contribute.

“The best way is to get younger firefighters to knock on the doors,” White said. “An individual approach is always the best.”

Bash agreed, then added, “Yeah, but we have almost a 50 square-mile service area.”

Local firefighters shouldn't look at Harrisburg for all the answers, said White.

He believes lawmakers will continue to wrestle with property tax bills and predicted that budget deliberations “will be a nightmare.”

White suggested the fire officials look into the possibility of accessing Marcellus shale natural gas from their property.

That revenue would supplement community contributions.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.