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July 30, 2014
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Local granges need property tax reform

Members of Unity Grange

A cornerstone of our rural heritage is in trouble. Our local granges need help.

The Grange, also known as the Patrons of Husbandry, is our country’s oldest agricultural organization, with granges in 37 states. For 145 years, the Grange has provided services that include supporting “economic development, education, family endeavors and legislation designed to assure a strong and viable rural America.” Full membership is open to individuals over 14 years of age.

In Wayne County, there were once 10 fully functioning local granges. Currently there are four, struggling to remain open in this rural agricultural area. Unlike younger organizations that have the opportunity to apply for various tax exemptions, our local granges were created prior to this option. Now, with increased operations costs, reduced membership numbers and mounting upkeep and repairs for these sometimes large historical buildings, our local granges are finding it difficult to pay their property taxes.

Unity Grange in Galilee, PA, which is used as an active community center, applied for and was awarded a grant to replace its hazardous electrical system and lighting. Other projects on our restoration agenda include replacing the antiquated furnace with an energy-efficient heating system, roof repair, purchasing vinyl siding to reduce maintenance costs, replacing the exterior doors and painting the interior.

Speaking only for Unity Grange in Galilee, our building is the largest public venue in the area. We provide space for a multitude of purposes including community meals, public concerts and dances, a meeting place for various organizations (including 4-H and churches), Election Day polling for Damascus district one, an emergency shelter, community holiday parties, food workshops and community gardens. The Wayne Highlands School District uses our parking lot as a safe bus-to-van transfer location for students. In the past, the land was cleared to provide an emergency helicopter landing area and was used by the state police as a crime investigation staging area. The grange provides heat, electricity and food for emergency personal and the community when used as a shelter free of charge. Currently our small membership is considering an additional 14 community service initiatives both independently and in conjunction with other community service organizations for the upcoming year.

We are asking for help from the citizens of Wayne County to ask the Wayne County Board of Commissioners—Wendell Kay, Brian Smith and Jonathan Fritz—and Chief Tax Assessor John Nolan to step up and join the other 18 counties in Pennsylvania that have granted property tax exemption to their granges.

Many who grew up in this area have fond memories of events that took place in a grange hall. Help us preserve our hall and help the other granges preserve theirs, so that our children and families will have those same great memories. Let our county officials know you care about our rural heritage and understand that agriculture is Wayne County’s leading industry. We began our quest for property tax exemption in 2008 and it continues. Please join your local granges in telling our county commissioners that it is time.

You can write them at Wayne County Commissioners, Wayne County Courthouse, 925 Court Street, Honesdale, PA 18431, or telephone 570/253-5970, ext 4010, or by fax at 570/253-5418. Let them know what the grange hall means to you.

The grange has more to offer than memories of the past. For more information on the Unity Grange, visit our website at unitygrange1710.wikispaces.com, or email us at unitygrange1710@gmail.com.