Two officers from the Eastern Berks Fire Company, headquartered in Barto, Berks County, were invited to Harrisburg to witness Governor Tom Corbett sign House Bill 465 into law. Fire Company President Scott Reitnauer and Deputy Fire Chief Michael Mutter attended the ceremony and were photographed with the Governor, State Senator Judy Schwank and State Representative Ryan Mackenzie.
The legislation is a result of the efforts by Schwank and Mackenzie to find a way change the tax system which would have cost the newly formed fire department almost $17,000 in real estate transfer taxes. Schwank said “emergency responders working to become better stewards of precious financial resources should not be penalized after they take action to improve accountability and performance.”
The two legislators worked together in the State Senate and House to create HB 465. Among its provisions, one section provides a property transfer tax exemption for fire departments and other emergency response companies when they merge or consolidate.
Eastern Berks Fire Department was formed at the end of 2011 by merging the Goodwill Fire Company in Bally, the Barto Fire Company in Barto and the Keystone Fire Company in Bechtelsville. The companies had worked side by side for years, and finally decided one consolidated company would make more sense. When the new company went to transfer property titles from the three legacy companies to the new department, it discovered that they would owe transfer tax to re-title their own property.
During its almost two years of existence, the fire department has instituted a single command structure for fire officers, as well as company executive officers. They have begun a review of apparatus needs for the combined department, have placed into service a fire police unit and a utility vehicle, and sold an outdated tanker. While currently operating out of all three stations, long term plans include additional consolidation of facilities
Operating as Company 97 out of Berks County, they responded to more than 300 incidents during 2012 and are on pace to match that for 2013. The department covers the Boroughs of Bally and Bechtelsville, all of Washington Township, and portions of Pike and District Townships.
The company thanks State Senator Judy Schwank and State Representative Ryan Mackenzie for their efforts on behalf of, not only Eastern Berks Fire, but all emergency responders as they seek to combine strengths and resources.
From Eastern Berks Fire Company.