EVFD looks to establish social club in Washington Township

Photo: Meghan Findley
EVFD (above) looks to establish a new social club.
EVFD looks to establish social club

By Tyler Trumbauer & Chris Lantinen
Sports Editor & Faculty Adviser/Spectator

The Washington Township Council approved a preliminary motion to provide the Edinboro Volunteer Fire Department (EVFD) with a piece of land next to the township building, located at 11800 Edinboro Road, in order to construct a satellite firehouse and social club.

The social club was first pitched to the Edinboro Borough Coucil, in an effort to convert their current social hall at the fire department into a club that served alcohol. That December proposal was struck down by a 3-3 vote. The club’s launch is to reportedly assist with fire department operation costs.  

At Washington Township Council’s Feb. 3 meeting, they voted 4-0 in favor of the land donation, with Manager David Anthony explaining that council recognized the problem facing the fire department and respected the entity for “thinking outside the box” when attempting to gain initial funds, instead of “going to the taxpayer.”

“You don’t want them to be fundraising 24/7. You want them out of the fundraising job to focus on what’s more important,” he said.

Anthony was also in favor of looking at this proposal because of the extra coverage a satellite station would provide for the area.

And when speaking about competition it would provide to Edinboro’s longtime dining establishments, he cited the distance between the proposed site and the town. He did not believe it to now be in “direct competition.”

According to a Feb. 4 post on the EVFD Facebook page, the plan, “in its early stages,” would “allow the fire department to provide more timely services to the northern half of the township, but it will also allow the department to generate the funding desperately needed to provide the entire community with more robust emergency services.”

Despite several attempts, the fire department could not be reached for direct comment.

T.J. Jemetz, in an email statement to The Spectator, applauded Washington Township in their willingness to help “the EVFD with land.” He would further state, though, that “this is not a done deal, and that there would be some very significant hurdles to overcome if this proposal is ever to come to fruition.”

“Council does appreciate the effort and creativity of the EVFD as they attempt to develop additional revenue sources to help offset some of the expense associated with emergency response for the greater Edinboro area,” said Jemetz.

Following that initial rejection by Edinboro Borough Council, again, in December, Jemetz spoke of the proposal in an email to The Spectator.

“To establish a club, the EVFD calls for an estimated $500,000 mortgage on the fire hall. The mortgage would fund the costs of renovating and transforming the EVFD social hall into a club. If the club were unsuccessful, it is very likely that the borough and township tax payers would be asked to save the fire hall. So, in essence, the tax payers could be financially liable if the club were to fail.”

The fire department’s initial plan was to renovate the social hall at 125 Meadville St., but failing to secure the liquor license halted that.

At that time, Jemetz stated, “The borough council is not convinced that the EVFD has a viable business plan.” He later stated in that e-mail, “These discussions should happen before a second attempt to hurry through an approval of a liquor license. The EVFD representatives have stated that they have an opportunity to purchase a liquor license now and that they need the income from the club now, and therefore the license should be approved immediately. However, the current plan does not show any extra revenue, above the club business expenses, for the fire department, for at least five years.”

Other fire departments in the region have launched and are successfully operating social clubs, very similar to this. Vernon Township, Conneaut Lake and Cochranton all operate revenue-generating bars.

In a Facebook post by the EVFD on Dec. 10, following that rejection, it stated, “Over the past few months, the members of the Edinboro Volunteer Fire Department have expended a great deal of time and effort in seeking the Borough Council’s permission to purchase a liquor license and operate a social club.”

It would continue by describing what they called a “lengthy political process, which included four public meetings” and “requests for information from Borough Council and the Borough Manager.”

The EVFD page described being “disappointed that council has reservations about supporting them in this effort.”

According to the fire department’s official website, the motion approved by Washington Township now calls for them to “begin the subdivision and land development procedures and the formal procedure of obtaining the liquor license.”

Washington Township will hold a public hearing regarding the situation on March 3.

Tyler Trumbauer is the sports editor for the Spectator, and Chris Lantinen is the faculty adviser for the Spector. They can be reached by (814) 732-2266, or email Tyler by sports.spectator@gmail.com