CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — “When somebody dials 911, they’re having the worst day of their life potentially,” Chris Harter, president of the Walker Township Fire Company said. “It would be a shame if we’re not able to get there to help them because of finances.” 

Harter said this is the reality the fire company faces as they continue to be at a years-long stalemate over how they’ll secure the necessary funding to keep the emergency services running in the coming years.

“The cost of equipment and apparatuses as really doubled or maybe even tripled over the years, and quickly,” Harter said.

Walker Township Fire Company Treasurer Chris Miller said he began to notice a pattern in 2018.

“We were barely breaking even and we started showing a loss,” Miller said.

While the company hosts a variety of fundraisers, Miller said it’s not enough to secure necessary replacements.

“We’re paying the bills, everything’s good, but we’re stagnant,” Miller said.

The company began negotiations with township supervisors in 2019, sharing what they say is at stake if they don’t secure long-term funding.

“There could be a reduction of fire protection in the community and nobody wants to see that happening,” Harter said.

As a solution, the fire company is asking for a property tax increase of $1 million out of a possible $3 million.

“As a resident here, mine’s $65 a year,” Miller said. “If we got 1 mil increase, mine would go to $130 a year, which is $10-11 a month. We don’t feel that that’s too much to ask to have good, quality fire protection in the community.”

The supervisors are 2:1 against the tax.

“We want to fund the fire company, but I personally don’t feel that adding a tax to do it is the right way to go for a taxpayers money,” Walker Township Supervisor Deb Zimmerman said. “We have enough money in our general funds budget right now to offer them more than what the tax would bring in as an income and we’d like to pass it that way.”

Zimmerman said this is a short-term solution and they’ll need to find another, long-term plan; however, she said it will be difficult to meet all of the fire company’s goals.

“I don’t think, even with adding a $1 mil fire tax or us giving the $125,000, they’re going to be able to meet their goals,” Zimmerman said. “Equipment is expensive. We could maybe negotiate helping them further, but we have to come up with a way to do it first and set the money aside for specific use.”

Zimmerman said the community will remain protected.

“We do have mutual aid companies that can step in if something breaks down here in Walker Township,” Zimmerman said.

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The fire company is hosting a public meeting at their station (125 Fire House Ln, Howard, PA 16841) on Tuesday, August 16, at 7 p.m. to share more information and receive community feedback. Zimmerman said the township supervisors will also be present.