Greenville fire service keeps full-time jobs

GREENVILLE, Pa. (WKBN) – In Greenville, Pa., voters chose to keep their fire department staffed 24/7, as a fire levy passed with 62 percent of the vote.

Voters approved a three-mil levy, that will raise about $100,000 for the fire department.

The force includes full and part-time firefighters.

If the levy failed– officials considered cutting many of the full-time positions, using mostly part-timers or volunteers.

The Greenville Fire Department is northwestern Mercer County is one of only a handful in that part of Pennsylvania with paid full-time firefighters.

Most of the departments are run by volunteers.

Firefighters did what they could to educate residents about the issue over the past several months.

“We canvassed the town, we knocked on doors, we hung notes on doors, and probably a handful, less than a handful, voiced opposition against us,” firefighter Richard Craig said.

Supporters worry if the levy fails, officials will push to eliminate many of the full-time positions in the department and use only part-timers and volunteers.

It is not often that Pennsylvania voters have the chance to vote up or down on tax increases. The law allows local governments to raise them, within limits, every year. And some in the borough of less than 6,000 residents are taking advantage of the opportunity.

“I have the opportunity to say ‘no,’ so that is the way I voted,” Greenville resident Russell Weaver said.

The 12-man department is split between full and part-timers and will cost the general fund about $586,000 to operate this year, which is about 20 percent of the overall budget. But the community is also considered economically “distressed” by lawmakers in Harrisburg, who are pressing towns like this to cut costs.

“We are assumming that if it fails, they are going to use that against us at contract talks, negotiation, and use that against us trying to cut staffing,” Craig said.

Resident Mary Reames said she voted yes on the levy.

“It is a very important part of our community that we have a strong fire department,” Reames said.

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