Halfmoon Township Takes No Action on Fire Deal in Pennsylvania

HALFMOON TOWNSHIP -- The Port Matilda Fire Company is just $4,000 away from saving its tanker truck from bank repossession, but it has made no progress persuading the five municipalities it serves to contribute financially to the department's operations.

On Thursday, Halfmoon Township supervisors discussed, for the second consecutive meeting, a possible contract with the fire company but took no action. Officials instead will continue to finalize the wording of the proposed deal.

Supervisors have not yet even discussed, let alone decided, how much of the tax revenues the township specifically collects for fire protection will be contributed to the Port Matilda Fire Company.

"At some later date we will fill in the blank with the amount of money," Supervisor Ben Pisoni said. "We haven't decided how much, yet."

The fire company has proposed the following fees in contracts provided to its municipalities early last month: Port Matilda, $4,675; Halfmoon Township, $35,292; Huston Township, $12,887; Taylor Township, $3,300; and Worth Township, $7,132.

The independent committee assembled two months ago to handle the fire company's finances is losing patience.

"I'm disappointed in them," Financial Control Committee Chairman Lee Pressler said of elected officials in the five municipalities. "I would have thought the were more businesslike than that. I'm a little disappointed in their ethics."

Pressler has expressed frustration that, more than six months into the year, not one of the municipalities has provided a cent of tax revenue to the fire company -- even though three of the five earmark a portion of property taxes for that expressed purpose.

"It'd be a lot easier if they'd pay their dues and get on with things," Pressler said.

Port Matilda officials have said that since the borough is the host municipality, it will not enter into any contract with the fire company, borough Secretary Lenna Neff said.

And because of mounting workers'-compensation bills the borough is responsible for in the fire company's name, officials are uncertain whether any funding is even available to give the company, she said.

Officials in the remaining three municipalities could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Since fire company officials handed over complete financial control to the independent Financial Control Committee two months ago, the public has donated almost $90,000 to make a $27,600 balloon payment to save the building from foreclosure and all but assure a past-due payment on a tanker truck is made in time to save it from repossession.

Pressler's committee divided the $67,400 balloon payment due on the truck into thirds and, so far, has made two payments. The committee is only about $4,000 away from making the final payment to keep the tanker in the company's four-vehicle fleet. The money is due in August.

With this group of independent residents at the helm, the fire company's bills are up-to-date and its future is looking bright, even though municipal officials still have not contributed a cent, Pressler said.

"We're still keeping afloat," he said.

Distributed by the Associated Press