Pa. Council Blasted for Not Supporting Fire Company

Aug. 27--NEWVILLE -- Tensions ran high at the Newville Borough Council meeting Tuesday when West Pennsboro Township Supervisor Jerry Barrick asked about the financial support the council gives the fire company.

Barrick stood up during the public comment section of the meeting and asked the council why, in previous years, the council had not given any funding to the Newville Fire Company. He said he noticed in a report given by fire chief Buck Bigler at a West Pennsboro Township Board of Supervisors meeting that Newville was the only surrounding municipality that had not contributed financially.

"Is there a reason why all of the surrounding people support your fire company and not the borough?" Barrick asked.

Councilman Clarence Fry III said the borough supports the fire company in other ways, such as by removing snow from the fire house, workers' compensation and processing the payroll for them. Jody Gilbert, council president, said the council doesn't have enough funding to give the fire company a lot of financial support.

"There's a lot of things, Jerry, that go on, that are not monetary, they're services rendered," Fry said.

"The thing is, we don't have the money, there is no money, we have no savings, no money to help out," Gilbert said.

It was also noted that the lack of money being contributed to the fire company from Newville in general is the reason for the newly instated fire tax that began in Newville this year.

Barrick also asked about the fire police, which have been a topic of contention within the borough this year. At that point, Solicitor Marcus McKnight III stepped in and told Barrick that it was the fire police's decision to not work with the borough anymore, as well as the school.

McKnight said the borough did not seek out issues with the fire police, but now that they have found them they are reacting the best way they know how. He said that there was more information Barrick may not know about and that, as the treasurer of the fire company in West Pennsboro, Barrick should keep a tight eye on the fire police's finances in West Pennsboro, because it's easy to lose track of donations.

"I don't know where you got this information, but the reality is that we don't have a bone to pick with the fire company or with the ambulance association, unless you know something we don't," McKnight said. "If we find wrongdoing, we're going to try to straighten it out. Fire police had some issues, and quite frankly, they've been addressed and if the fire police have a bad attitude towards the borough, sorry, but they should confess to you what they've done that's improper and how it's been corrected. ... We're talking about fraud. ... When you give a donation to the fire police, you expect it to be used for nonprofit purposes, and that's all the further I want to go with that, but you need to investigate that."

There was concern that some members of the fire police were receiving more than $500 each year through the school detail, which would no longer make them a volunteer and would make their workers' compensation void. McKnight said the Big Spring School District was under the impression that they were making a donation to the fire police for volunteer activities, not paying the individual members.

"That's why we suspended the calendar, because we weren't sure who had gotten more than $500 or not," McKnight said. "Now we've had some meetings with the fire chief and he's indicated to us that a couple of the members have received more than $500 for 2014."

In other business:

The borough council approved the formation of the auxiliary police as well as the purchase of equipment for each of the 11 members.

After an executive session, the fire police were reinstated without Charles Smith and Ronald Stum, who had been determined to have received the maximum of $500 during the 2014 calendar year for their services. The existing calendar of events was also approved.

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