Jessup Borough Adding Financial Incentive to Boost Volunteer First Responders Recruitment

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JESSUP -- There's an effort to recruit more volunteer first responders in one community in Lackawanna County.

On Monday night, Jessup Borough council voted to give volunteer firefighters and EMT's a tax break if they live in the borough.

It was a busy Monday night for both hose companies in Jessup. Over at Hose Company No. 1, volunteer firefighters were called to a nearby house after a construction crew hit a gas line. Then at Hose Company No. 2, fire crews rushed to rescue a person lost on a walking trail.

Members say the calls are getting harder to handle as it gets harder to recruit volunteers.

“We've had our challenges, comes in bunches. We'll have some people come in, we'll get a group, five, six and then we won't see anything for a couple years,” said Richard Troian, president of Hose Company No. 2.

At the Jessup Borough Council Meeting, Council voted to add a financial incentive to attract new volunteers.

“That would allow a tax credit to those individuals who are considered to be eligible volunteers,” said borough solicitor Richard Fanucci.

Starting in 2018, volunteer first responders who live in Jessup will get a 20 percent reimbursement of the property taxes they pay to the borough if they meet certain criteria.

“They would have to pay their tax bill in full, submit an application and it would have to be signed off and approved by the chief,” said Fanucci.

“That's what we need, a lot more young recruiting, recruit a lot of young kids and that will help,” said Tony Ligi, a volunteer with Hose Company No. 1.

“We volunteer our time and we really get no pay or anything for it really, so any kind of help we would take,” said Troian.

Residents also say this is a great idea.

“Nobody wants to volunteer anymore because they're not getting paid to go into a fire, so they deserve something, absolutely,” said Travis Myer.

“Absolutely, we need them. We desperately need volunteers and any incentive will go a long way,” said Mark Soltis.

Council members say 20 percent is as high as they can legally reimburse volunteers, making one fire chief question if it really will help with recruitment.

“Twenty percent to me, as a firefighter, is thirty bucks a year, on my property tax that I would get back. Is it worth it? Absolutely not,” said Chief Joe Fetcho with the Jessup Hose Company No. 2.

Jessup Borough Council says the fire chiefs will come up with criteria that volunteers must meet in order to qualify for the tax rebate.