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Wind Gap takes next step to relocate aging facilities under one roof

By Kevin Lechiski, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 14 2012 10:30:33 PM CST

The Wind Gap Fire Department would share its new home with the ambulance squad and municipal government under a plan being pursued by Borough Council.

WIND GAP, Pa. -

Wind Gap officials say they have all their financial ducks in a row to relocate the borough’s fire, ambulance and municipal government operations from their aging buildings to a modern facility without increasing taxes.

Borough Council held a special public meeting Wednesday night to highlight its plan to spend about $1.3 million to purchase an existing 12,000-square-foot facility on eight acres at 545 E. West Street.

The facility, owned by MSG Associates, is move-in ready and would require minimal renovations for the operations of the fire department, ambulance squad and municipal government, according to Borough Council President George Hinton Jr. The furnished facility includes office space, conference room, administrative area, garage space and kitchenette.

Hinton said the borough would be able to purchase and renovate the site without raising taxes by using a combination of tipping fees and money received from the planned sale of the ambulance, fire and municipal buildings.

“I think the council as a whole has done their due diligence to make this thing fly,” he said.

Hinton said the borough is considering taking out a 20-year mortgage on the site with a monthly mortgage payment of about $7,100 per month. He said this amount accounts for only 58 percent of the tipping fees received from Waste Management.

The project would be further supported, Hinton said, through the planned sale of the ambulance, fire and municipal buildings, the three of which have a combined appraised value of about $1.6 million.

“If we get close to what we want for these properties, it would more than pay off the mortgage,” Hinton said.

Hinton said the borough also has $147,000 set aside to cover any modifications that would be needed at the West Street facility. He anticipates some renovations to accommodate the ambulance operation. Since office space is already furnished and bays are user-ready, Hinton expects little or no renovations to accommodate the municipal government and fire department. The borough is in the process of having site drawings completed, Hinton said.

By having all three operations in one building, the borough anticipates the $22,000 spent per year on their utilities being cut by at least half, said Councilman John Maher.

In addition to the cost savings in utilities, the fire department would avoid expensive renovations to its existing 60-year-old facility with the relocation. Renovations are needed to the fire company’s roof, parking lot, flooring and bathrooms, noted Councilman Jon Faust.

Officials noted that age is also catching up to the 115-year-old municipal building and 20-year-old ambulance building, which still has an outstanding mortgage of about $120,000.

Council’s next step is to get the required approvals from the state Department of Community and Economic Development needed for the municipality to borrow money to purchase the West Street property. Officials anticipate it could take about four months to complete this process, which will include a public hearing on a municipal ordinance authorizing the bond note.

About 40 residents attended Wednesday's meeting, with only a few expressing opposition to or concerns about the project.

Randy Yordy, who lives near the West Street site, expressed concern over the roadway being too small to accommodate the fire vehicles. He also took issue with a recurring problem of dust being kicked up from an area of unpaved roadway.

Resident Paul Levits expressed concerns that the borough could be left in a financial pinch if it is unable to sell its three properties and if tipping fees eventually dry up. The borough is guaranteed tipping fees for at least 10 more years, officials said.

Levits also raised concerns over unanticipated costs such as unforeseen renovations.

To which Hinton responded, “With any project there are going to be unknowns. I think we have contingencies in place to address the unknowns.”