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North Irwin steadies taxes, makes fire department donation

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

North Irwin Council doesn't plan to raise the property tax rate in the 2013 budget, which now includes a $2,000 donation for the North Irwin Volunteer Fire Company.

The $161,446 spending plan keeps the tax rate set at 19.5 mills and results in a $1,975 surplus.

A home with an assessed value of $25,000 would receive an annual tax bill of $375.

Council adopted the preliminary budget after a 6-1 vote. Councilman Bernie Reynolds dissented.

Council set the engineering budget at $25,000 in October and then later cut it to $15,000, council President Kim Macalus said.

The change not only allowed council to make the contribution to the fire company, but it also created a $4,000 line item for the rental of a tar buggy to make road repairs next fall, Macalus said.

Reynolds opposed the fire department donation, which, he said, was satisfied last year, when council gave its former police car to officials to use as a first-responder vehicle in lieu of a cash contribution.

“The fire department is part of the borough, and yes, we gave them the car,” Macalus said. “The car was more of a ‘pay-it-forward' deal, to me, because we didn't pay for the car.

“A $2,000 donation isn't going to make or break our budget, and the fire department is a vital part of the community.”

Council gave the car, which is a 2003 Crown Victoria, to the fire company in April. It used to be the borough's police vehicle.

Council agreed it would serve as the borough's donation to the fire company for at least two years, Reynolds said.

“I've got nothing against that fire department,” Reynolds said.

The fire company handled 224 calls in 2011 and 186 calls in 2012 through October, according to its website.

The North Irwin Volunteer Fire Company had $191,288 in revenue and $169,585 in expenses in 2010, according to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service to maintain the fire department's nonprofit status.

Most of its funding comes from fundraisers, donations and revenue from its social club, which includes a bar and restaurant, and bowling lanes.

Macalus said neither the fire chief Ron Rodgers, nor any members of the fire company asked borough officials for a donation.

Instead, the donation should be built into the budget on an annual basis, Macalus said.

“I've been part of this council when we've donated $1,000, and I've been part of it when they've given $4,000,” Macalus said. “I don't want to be part of the council that doesn't give a donation and is the reason the fire department closes up.”

In other news ...

Council appointed five residents and two council liaisons to the Recreation Organization of North Irwin, or RONI.

The new board includes Michelle Frye, Sonnett Kettren, Jennifer McCutcheon, Deb Schade and Shannon Schade, and council liaisons Ron Brown and Macalus.

Frye and Kettren were members of the former RONI board.

The appointments leave two spots open on the RONI board, which council hopes to fill during its Dec.10 meeting.

In October, council dismantled the RONI board after council accused the group of not holding public meetings, not communicating with borough officials and not holding several of its annual events.

The group is responsible for planning all of the borough-sponsored recreation events, such as the Halloween parade, Light Up Night and the annual senior citizens dinner, as well as providing gift cards for groceries to needy families around the holidays.

Although the borough does not include money in its annual budget for the recreation group, Macalus said, it typically receives an annual $500 donation from the Norwin Community Foundation, along with donations from borough residents.

The newly-formed RONI board plans to meet for the first time in January. In the group's absence, the North Irwin Volunteer Fire Company plans to host the borough's Light Up Night festivities on Nov. 30 at 6 p.m.

Borough residents interested in joining the RONI board should send a letter of interest to North Irwin Town Hall, 21 Second St., North Irwin, PA 15642.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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