During their January 23 meeting, the Allen Township Board of Supervisors explored several options for rewarding existing fire department volunteers while incentivizing new members to join the team. Among them were real estate and earned income tax credits, mileage reimbursements and reimbursements per fire call. However, due to lax state law, supervisors struggled to decide on a program that would be fair for all volunteers.
“It is crazy all across the state,” said Township Solicitor Lincoln B. Treadwell, “because there is not a uniform way to address it.”
This has unintentionally led to municipalities competing for volunteers as volunteers move between departments, searching for the best benefits.
The original draft ordinance of the township’s incentive program offers a 100% real estate tax credit for volunteers who meet criteria like number of calls responded to. Nonresidents would also receive a payment based on the assessed value of their property multiplied by the Allen Township tax millage.
“I don’t see how crediting 100% across the board is fair,” said Supervisor Gary Behler. “Some firefighters would get double of what others would get.”
Behler worried that volunteers with lower property assessments would get a smaller credit despite doing the same job. The same dilemma would happen if the township based the credit on earned income.
Supervisor Dale Hassler, the township’s fire chief, said other volunteers rent, and some live with their parents, which would not make them eligible for the real estate credit. In the case of earned income tax credits, some volunteers, like him, are retired.
“There isn’t a cure-all,” he continued. But the township must do something soon, he added.
With neighboring townships offering some incentives like pay-per-call, Hassler said he worries Allen Township may lose volunteers if they do not offer any program; a further consequence, said Treadwell, of an inconsistent state policy.
The board tabled the draft ordinance. Treadwell, Township Manager Ilene Eckhart and two board members will meet to map out all possibilities before returning to the full board to determine which incentive program is the fairest.
In other news, the township awarded an environmental remediation and asbestos removal project to EHC Associates for $39,794. The company will be removing asbestos from the floor tiles of the township’s fire building.
The original proposal for the project budgeted $80,000. The remaining budget will be reallocated for further building updates.
The township also unveiled its new website during the January 23 meeting. The new site, built by NA Studios, features an updated logo, ADA enhancements and security upgrades. There is a new newsfeed, and residents can review Board of Supervisor agendas or listen to meeting recordings. In addition, the site features an AI chatbot that residents can interact with to find answers on permits, township news and more.
Also on the agenda was a proposed grocery market in the township. DG Market, a grocery chain owned by Dollar General, will appear before the Zoning Hearing Board on February 22. Developers will seek two variances: to decrease the requirement that loading docks be no less than 130 feet from property lines and to increase the small commercial space square footage from 10,000 square feet to 12,480 square feet.
While supervisors are not against the idea of a new grocery store in the township (Hassler stated that it would be a plus for the area), they do wonder whether the developer can make changes to the plan that would decrease the store’s square-footage in such a densely populated residential area.
The land where the proposed market will be built, along Cherryville Road, is zoned neighborhood-commercial. Only small commercial spaces, like mini-marts, are allowed in this zone. However, anything larger than 10,000 square feet is considered “large commercial.” DG argues Allen Township has no zoning for commercial spaces between a mini-mart or a Walmart.
Supervisors have asked that the developers appear before the board sometime in February for further discussion before the Zoning Hearing Board hears the case.
Finally, supervisors voted to temporarily close the township’s dog park starting on February 12. This closure is routine. The township regularly closes the park during the wet months of late winter and early spring to prevent issues with mud and give the grass time to regrow. Weather permitting, the park will reopen at the end of April.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be Tuesday, February 13 at 6 p.m.