WINDHAM - The Windham Township supervisors, who are feuding with the Windham Volunteer Fire Company, are taking steps to start a new fire company to serve the township.
"They (the Windham Volunteer Fire Co.) have never dealt with us in good faith," said Charles Davis, chairman of the township supervisors, on Tuesday. "They were continually double dealing with us. We got tired of it."
And when the fire company removed its equipment from the fire hall on Feb. 3, that was the final straw, Davis said.
"We're moving in the direction of getting a new fire department for Windham Township," Davis said. "We're going forward with it (establishing a new fire department). At least that is our intention." Members of the Windham Volunteer Fire Company removed tables, chairs, curtains, the bingo board, kitchen appliances and other items from the fire hall on Feb. 3.
Fire company members said they were leaving the fire hall because of issues that have been ongoing for several years, including the withholding of fire protection money this past year by the supervisors and the termination of a contract to allow the fire company to lease the fire hall for a period of 99 years.
Township Supervisor Larry Brown said he also is in support of starting the new fire company. The third township supervisor, Ed Kaminski, is a member of the Windham Volunteer Fire Co. and is opposed to starting a new fire company.
Brown said that a couple of days after the fire company moved out of the fire hall, Kaminski told him that the Windham Volunteer Fire Co. had disbanded.
"So we proceeded with this action" to take steps toward starting a new fire department, Brown said. But Windham Volunteer Fire Co. President Doug Soden said on Tuesday that the Windham Volunteer Fire Co. is not disbanding. "It is temporarily out of service," Soden said.
In response the township supervisors' intention to form a new fire company, a public meeting has been called for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the North Orwell Hall on state Route 187 in Orwell Township, Soden said.
The purpose of the public meeting is to find out whether the public wants the Windham Volunteer Fire Co. to go back into service, or whether it supports the supervisors' plan to form a new fire company, Soden said.
"We want to find out what the public wants: us or a secondhand untrained fire department to protect the people of Windham," Soden said.
The new fire company would report to the township supervisors, and its equipment will belong to the township, Brown said. In addition, the supervisors would have control over how township funds set aside for the fire department are spent.
Davis said that he and other township officials have been in contact with several state departments in Harrisburg to find out the steps that need to be taken to form a new fire department.
Qualified members of the Windham Volunteer Fire Co. would be welcome to join the new department, Davis continued.
If the supervisors cannot recruit enough members from the Windham Volunteer Fire Co., "we will find people and get them trained" Davis said.
But Soden said he has heard of only three people who might be willing to join the new fire company. Soden also charged that the supervisors would use old fire trucks from New Jersey that were "decommissioned by OSHA."
The other equipment used by the new fire company would also be "used equipment that has been decommissioned," Soden said.
Davis said that the supervisors have been offered two vehicles - a fire truck and a pickup truck for the new department - but are not yet sure they would be suitable for the new fire company.
Davis also said the fire company won't have full crews to start out with, nor would it initially have as many vehicles as the Windham Volunteer Fire Co. Davis also said Thursday's public meeting will be a case of "who can drum up the most people with the loudest mouths."
"That's no way to decide" which fire company should serve the township, said Davis, adding that the supervisors were elected to do the business of the township.
Soden said that the township supervisors will be invited to Thursday's meeting. Residents and fire company members from surrounding townships are also encouraged to attend, because whichever fire department exists in Windham will also be called on to assist at fires and other emergencies in surrounding communities.
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