REGIONAL, Pa. (WTAJ) — On the May 18 Municipal Primary ballot, Pennsylvania voters will see four ballot questions, including three proposed constitutional amendments, and one statewide referendum.
If approved, the referendum would make paid municipal fire and emergency service companies eligible to apply for loans.
This is something volunteer fire companies have been able to do since 1975, when the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program was established. It helps companies purchase equipment they may not have been able to finance on their own.
Altoona Fire Chief Tim Hileman, who is also a committee member for Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association, said the committee has been collaborating with multiple organizations to establish a program where career departments, or departments with paid employees, can use those same funding streams for equipment.
“These are loans they get paid back with interest, so it’s not a grant or anything like that where the volunteers would be losing money or something like that,” said Hileman.
The program has about $47 million in it annually, and there are about 22 career departments in Pennsylvania.
“All of the people involved in getting this on the referendum have done the studies, and really, you’re looking at adding maybe one truck finance a year,” said Hileman. “For the most part it doesn’t even fund the entire piece of apparatus, it funds part of it, so again it’s just another tool in our tool box.”
He said it will not hurt volunteer companies.
“The fact of the matter is we’re all in the same boat when it comes to financing and providing the best fire support for our communities,” said Hileman. “It’s one of the rare times where we can all come together and agree that this is good for the entire fire service in the state of Pennsylvania.”
If you are not yet registered to vote, the deadline to do so is Monday, May 3.