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Local granges need property tax reform

By Members of Unity Grange
January 2, 2013

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.