Philipsburg to study fire funding, needs

The Philipsburg Borough Council heard a plea Monday from Reliance Fire Company and formed a committee to consider the plight of both the municipality’s fire houses.

Reliance President Dave Mollura told the council the fire company was in dire need.

“We want to thank the council for the money you do give,” said Mollura. “But it’s not enough. Is there any way the borough could help us purchase new equipment?”

Mollura suggested the borough consider levying a fire tax.

Councilwoman Sharon Goss challenged Mollura, saying the fire companies ought to be much more active in applying for the many grants that are available for just such purposes.

“In years past, our company was always self-sufficient,” said Mollura. “Times have changed. We’re having difficulty raising enough money with our bingos and boot drives. It’s simply not enough any more.”

In response to the plea, the council formed a committee to look into a matter, as the borough helps support both Reliance and Hope companies in Philipsburg. Some talk centered on the old problem of unifying the two fire companies located a block away from each other.

Philipsburg gives $25,000 annually to a fire council, which consists of four local communities that pool resources to support the fire companies, but the costs, according to Mollura, to equip one firefighter is $4,500 without breathing apparatus, and fire engines can range well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last week, Reliance firefighter Ryan Allen Jones, 27, was arraigned before District Judge Allen Sinclair, facing felony charges that he stole from the fire company.

He was charged with forgery, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, and receiving stolen property, all felonies, and one misdemeanor count of bad checks. Jones served as treasurer, Mollura had said.

According to court documents, Jones admitted to writing 35 checks to himself from Reliance’s account. The checks totaled $14,496.95.

In other news, the council gave preliminary approval to a new business on Front Street.

The council saw plans for a 3,300-square-foot salon and spa that would be on the corner of Alder and Front streets. The council also moved to vacate a portion of Alder Street to facilitate the project.

The council stressed the approval was contingent upon seeing a stormwater management plan and for the project to move through both the council and Center County planning.

A number of zoning measures also are in the works, including a softening of zoning in residential district 1B that would expand the types of at-home businesses that would be allowed.

The council also is working on a number of parking ordinances that would affect Second, Fourth, Laurel, Pine and Spruce Streets. In one matter, the two-hour parking limitation would be lifted on the side streets in the business district and another would affect overnight parking on Second Street.