Negotiations continue for Muncy Township and fire company
MUNCY – Still unsettling, the relationship between Muncy Township and the Pennsdale and Muncy Township Volunteer Fire Company remains a dismal predicament. Since an emergency meeting was held last month on October 23rd, it was determined to continue negotiations in order to come to a mutual agreement.
A large turnout from the local community urged the two organizations to try to resolve their differences on the financing and operations of the township building which has been under dissent for the past couple of years.
Township supervisor, Paul Wentlzer addressed the meeting announcing how difficult it would be to sever ties with the fire department if it would come to that. He noted that the fire company has been “uncooperative” in their approach to update the by-laws and contracts needed for training and liability.
Over 800 dollars in legal fees have been spent so far to try to come to a resolution. “It was presented and defeated,” Wentzler told the audience explaining that the township is “operating at 45 thousand dollars in the hole.” He informed that the township pays $52,000 a year for the mortgage of $680,000. “We had to file for relief funds,” he added.
After answering questions from the public and disputing related items, it was agreed by both parties to come back to the table to re-negotiate for a better working agreement or contract.
A new fire alarm and security system is also needed and a new heat pump is needed culminating in over $250,000 worth of further expenses.
The township asked the fire company to relinquish their annual budget to help determine long range planning efforts for the use of the building which the two organizations share. Wentzler said there was not much of a response from them and thus, the entire situation snowballed into something very frustrating for all involved, but more importantly resting on the tax dollars of the community.
The property itself is owned by the fire company. However, the township became the guarantor of the debt in 2003 because the fire company could no longer afford it. Seen as a community asset because it serves the the police department and is a venue for community events, it became apparent that the two organizations need to compromise on its remaining existence, despite the strained relationship.
Questions raised asked why communication between the two was lacking and what efforts have been taken and wanted to hear from members of the fire department.
“We want to work out a deal,” said Wentzler. Michelle Fry wanted to know what would happen to the building if no agreement is reached. “I don’t know” was the response. “The building has to pay for itself and is considered a community asset.”
June Puderbaugh from Muncy spoke out saying that the fire company should remain in the building. “There has to be some way to get together to find a plan to keep things peaceably,” she stated.
John Fry commented that there seems to be a lack of people working together. Nathaniel Lamereaux asked to hear from the fire company.
Cory Palmatier, President of the fire company said that this emergency public meeting came as a surprise to him. He said he would be willing to take the dialogue back to the table to work out these issues that were “identified by an independent report.”
A future public meeting will be posted. “We want to work out our differences,” said Palmatier. “All we want to do is get along.” He said he questioned some things on the contract but could not get the answers he wanted. “Now we are here,” he told everyone. “We are not trying to hide anything. We are just trying to protect our community.”
A draft from the fire company was given to the township supervisors but deficiencies in workman’s compensation were since then identified by them and it was voted down.
Community members acknowledged that this discussion should have happened months ago and asked if some of them could sit in on the negotiations as liaisons to help absolve some of these conflicts.
“No one wants to see this service shut down,” said Tom Schaech from the board of supervisors and proposed a board of appropriations for citizen input from both sides.