Residents Rallying to Save Fire Hall in Pennsylvania

PORT MATILDA -- In the five days since Port Matilda firefighters appealed to home and business owners to send money to save the fire company's building, $10,225.50 has poured in.

That leaves about $17,000 more that the fire company must raise by the end of the week to prevent Allegheny Valley Bank from foreclosing on its fire station.

If the donations keep coming in as they have, "I think we'll do OK," said Lee Pressler, chairman of a committee formed last week to manage the company's finances.

The committee, which consists of five people, one from each of the municipalities served by the company, are not elected officials. Officials say no panel members have any connection with the fire company.

In forming the committee, fire officials appealed to the owners of each of the 2,400 properties in Halfmoon, Huston, Taylor and Worth townships and Port Matilda to give $50 to keep the fire company from closing.

A spreadsheet being kept by Omega Bank, where an account has been established to receive donations, shows donations are coming in from throughout Centre County, not just from the municipalities served by the company, Pressler said.

Allegheny Valley Bank began proceedings to foreclose on the company's building and a tanker truck after the fire company failed to make $94,000 in balloon payments by March 31.

Fire company officials say they have been keeping in contact with the bank, and hope to stave off foreclosure of the building if they can raise the money to pay the $27,629 balloon payment on the building by the end of April.

An additional $67,403 payment is owned on the company's tanker truck. If that truck is repossessed, the company would still have its 15-10 truck, a rescue truck and a brush truck.

The foreclosure proceedings began after the fire company and the municipalities it serves failed to come to terms on an agreement that would have turned over financial control of the fire company to the municipalities.

Port Matilda officials last week said they were attempting to schedule a meeting of officials from the five municipalities to discuss ways to save the company from foreclosure. No information was available Monday on whether such a meeting has been scheduled.

Pressler said the Financial Control Committee will meet 7 p.m. today at the fire station to discuss what would happen with the money raised if the goal is not met.

At this point, Pressler said, he is leaning toward simply returning the money to all the donors.

Distributed by the Associated Press