EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Just weeks after a person allegedly set fire to their headquarters, firefighters said donations to the Cardiff Volunteer Fire Company have fallen off this year.
And it's not sitting well with some firefighters.
"We put out the fund drive envelopes, and they can't put $10, $15, $20 in an envelope," township Fire Chief William Danz told the Township Committee at its Wednesday meeting. He said it's "absolutely discouraging and disgusting the support the volunteer fire companies get from the township residents."
"We need to get the township to believe in us," Danz told the committee.
An Aug. 5 fire caused about $90,000 in damage to the station, firefighters have said. Police arrested a township man on Aug. 19 in connection with the blaze, but have not identified him.
Since the fire, Cardiff Fire Chief Rob Winkler said he has had to do his paperwork in his truck. Station cleanup work is nearly done, and the company is contacting contractors and working with its insurers. He estimated it would be between one and two months before repairs even started.
"It's going to be a cold winter," Winkler said.
In the meantime, he has watched donations trickle in.
"I guess the economy itself is sluggish," Winkler said. "It's really hurting our fundraising for the most part." He said about 10 percent of the roughly 6,000 homes covered by the fire company have donated.
Winkler and Danz both said Cardiff has not raised enough to cover its fundraising expenses.
Its tax records show the company annually spent between $4,811 and $5,399 on fundraising between 2010 and 2012.
The township annually provides its five fire companies with $30,000 each, Winkler and township Administrator Peter Miller said. Half of that amount is restricted to fire-related equipment and gear, while half can be spent on operations.
Winkler said these allotments are the state maximum.
The township also purchases heavy equipment for the companies, Miller said. It just opened bidding for a new pumper truck for the Farmington Volunteer Fire Company. Miller said the lowest bid was $499,000.
The township fire companies, like many volunteer companies, also supplement their income with annual fund drives and coin drops.
In a separate interview on Thursday, Danz stressed the volunteer nature of township fire companies, saying, to raise money "we go on the street corners and we ask for quarters like beggars."
But it is unclear how much Cardiff raises through its annual fundraisers.
Overall, Danz, said the company typically raises between $14,000 and $15,000 "on a good year."
Winkler said the company receives between $10,000 and $20,000 a year on average, but is about $10,000 beneath this year's goals.
The fire company does not itemize the money it generates through fundraisers. Instead, on its three most recent tax returns, it appears to group together all of the money it receives through non-government sources in one total.
The company reported it annually raised between $29,519 and $31,803 from these nongovernment sources between 2010 and 2012.
Winkler was not sure of the precise amounts raised by the fund drive, and referred questions to Treasurer Don Hamer, who said he was not authorized to speak publicly.
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