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Fire Association presents contract for service

By Staff | Sep 29, 2014

MUNCY – Following a lengthy discussion, Muncy Borough Council decided to proceed in negotiations with the Muncy Volunteer Fire Association for a contract for coverage in 2015. Council held a public meeting Monday, September 15 in order to allow comments from citizens. The meeting was held at the Muncy High School auditorium to accommodate over 20 volunteer firefighters who came in support of the contract.

“We need to start negotiating with them and get it done,” Councilwoman Tillie Noviello said. Following an at-times contentious exchange between Muncy Borough Council members and the representatives of the Muncy Volunteer Fire Association (MVFA), it was decided that council needed more time to look over the preliminary 2015 contract offered by the fire department.

It was a five year contract based on a yearly $42,000 which they had obtained consecutively for the past six to seven years on a verbal commitment “in good faith” and now for the first time, the MVFA is asking for a written contract according to Fire Chief, Scott Delaney.

The biggest change will be a one percent increase each year after the first year. “This is pretty low for a cost of living increase,” explained Delany as he handed the council the contract.

“This is a good start, we have something on paper so that council can look at it and I can look at it,” said Wilfred Knecht, borough solicitor. “We need some time to look at it.”

The contract also states that as the contract’s term expires, a new contract needs to be re-negotiated up to six months, but no less than three months from the end of the contract period.

To back up their service, Delany related some yearly statistics. Average response times to on the scene incidents was five to six minutes “which is good for a volunteer organization.”

Based on the population of the borough, Delany said that the cost equals about $16 per person. “Let’s get this over with and done. It’s been a long process,” he told the council as they looked over the contract. “We’re not asking for something astronomical.”

Councilwoman Karen Richards questioned the insertion of an arbitration clause stating that she would prefer changing it to a cooperative venture clause. “I do not want to exclude communication from the fire department over the next 5 years,” she said. “Let’s reword this clause so as to not have to enforce an arbititration that would cause excess fees. It shows we’re going to work together cooperatively.”

Borough solicitor, Knecht added that arbitration usually precludes a court action. Noviello made a motion to reword the contract so as not to seek arbitration and also suggested to take time to look at it.

Delany expressed he did not want to delay this until the end of the year with no budgeted item for the contract. Mayor Ort suggested to “deal with this quickly. The numbers don’t look unrealistic.” Last year MVFA reported 1,376 hours were spent by fire volunteers, and the board gave them an appreciative word of thanks and acknowledged them for their dedicated service, and care of the maintenance of the trucks.

“This is not a criticism of you,” Councilman Edward Feigles added.

Richards added that a certified audit will need to take place to verify the expenses representing the $42,000 since it is taxpayers money.

Noviello said that “hopefully by the end of October, we should be able to sign a contract for the merging fire companies. We’d like it to be finished as much as you do,” she added.

Delany also told council about an airboat that the fire association in conjunction with other municipalities is seeking Act 13 funds to purchase for $85,000. From a demo on Muncy Creek, he described how the boat is able to get past obstacles that would otherwise damage other boats, and that it would be useful for rescues during flooding and ice. The boat could then be utilized in other local municipalities as well as around the state.

In other business council voted to change the hours for trick or treating in the borough from Friday, Oct. 31 to Thursday, Oct. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. For safety issues, the move was prompted by a high school football game scheduled with Hughesville on Halloween night in the borough.