Palmerton ends contract with fire company
Palmerton has nixed its contract with the West End Fire Company.
After a brief executive session on Thursday, borough council, on a 6-0 vote, with one abstention, agreed to terminate its contract with the fire company, effective immediately. Councilwoman Holly Sell abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest.
Council President Terry Costenbader told the TIMES NEWS after the meeting why council agreed to the measure.
"It didn't really work the way we thought it was going to work," Costenbader said. "They're (the fire company) out of money."
In a related matter, Costenbader announced that a report from an investigative committee formed last month to determine whether facts and events may have impacted the contract was not yet complete.
"Due to the findings, the committee's not really done with its work," Costenbader said. "The report will be filed with council at a later date."
Last month, Costenbader read a statement on behalf of council that said he, as well as other members of council, had been aware of facts that could affect the borough's then contract with the fire company, dated June 28, 2012. Costenbader added that given the fact that public safety is governing its rights and obligations, he decided to form an investigative committee to determine whether there are facts and events which may impact the contract.
At that time, Costenbader said he had selected councilmen Kris Hoffner, Michael Ballard, himself, and borough manager Rodger Danielson to serve on the committee, which he said would be charged with taking all appropriate steps to interview individuals who may have factual first-hand knowledge of West End Fire Company events, policies and procedures in connection with the operation of the West End Fire Company. The committee will conduct the process in confidence, and shall not report any of their findings publicly until their work is completed, he said at that time.
Also at that time, Costenbader said a report from the committee would be delivered to council with suggested recommendations by last evening.
Scott Allinson, Esq., who currently assists council as special council, also serves as special council to the committee, and has been charged with preparing the written report, Costenbader previously said.
The agreement referenced by Costenbader outlines responsibilities and obligations.
At the time of its implementation, Danielson noted the agreement was created to help improve communication between both parties.
The agreement states that "during any fiscal year in which the borough provides funding to the Palmerton West End Fire Company, then the fire company shall be required and obligated to provide the following information and complete the performances required by this document:
• Before the disbursement of any borough funds, the fire company will provide a written list of the names of fire company members who are authorized to sign checks on behalf of the fire company. In addition, the fire company will provide the borough with a written list of officers, board of directors, and members of the fire company on an annual basis. The fire company shall provide the borough with a copy of its by-laws and amendments to the by-laws.
• Each member of the fire company who is authorized to sign checks shall provide a bond (from a bonding company authorized to do business in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania) for the benefit of the borough in the amount of $20,000 to $25,000, and said bonds shall be filed with the borough. The bonds shall be adjusted based on funding provided.
• By the 15th day of each month, the fire company will provide the borough with an itemized list of dates of all monies collected, and all expenses made from borough provided taxes for the prior month.
• On or before March 31 of each year, the fire company will provide the borough with an audited financial statement of all monies received and expenses made for the prior year by the fire company, which audit shall be prepared and certified to by a Certified Public Accountant.
• During the year 2012, the borough agrees to provide fire protection funding in the amount of $20,000 to $25,000, from which will be deducted the expenditures set forth in paragraph 7 hereof, and the balance shall be paid to the fire company for use for firefighting purposes only. Funding in subsequent years will be determined by the sole discretion of the borough council. The borough shall have the right to terminate funding at any time.
• The borough will continue to pay the following expenditures on behalf of fire protection in the borough: loan payments on two firefighting vehicles; sewer, water and solid waste for the West End Fire Company building and the Third Street building; workers' compensation premiums for firefighters (The fire company shall be responsible for providing the borough with a written list of active firefighters for workers' compensation purposes, and the fire company shall immediately notify the borough in writing of any changes to the list of active firefighters); insurance on firefighting vehicles, which are titled in the name of the borough; fire hydrant fees; insurance on the Third Street building used to house fire fighting equipment; and communication center fees related to the fire company.
• The following expenditures for fire protection in the borough shall be paid from the amount of funding that the borough allocates to fire protection in the borough, and shall be paid directly by the borough: loan payments on two firefighting vehicles; fire hydrant fees; insurance on the Third Street building used to house firefighting equipment; and communication center fees related to the fire company.
• The fire company will pay, and be solely responsible for, the following expenditures relating to fire protection in the borough: fuel for firefighting equipment; repairs and maintenance for firefighting equipment; insurance premiums on all vehicles and equipment owned by the fire company; rents; training; Internet fees; utility fees other than sewer, water and solid waste; and all other costs related to the operation of the fire company.
• The borough shall have the right, at any time, to receive from the fire company, proof of payment of any of the above expenditures within three days of a written request from the borough.
• The borough shall have the right to review the minutes of fire company meetings within three days of a written request from the borough.
• The borough agrees to give the fire company the first right to purchase any fire equipment, and/or vehicles that the borough does not desire to retain, if permitted by law. Any such sale must be in accordance with the borough code and other applicable laws.
• The borough retains the right to continue to own any fire equipment or trucks, and to acquire fire equipment and trucks in the future.
• Any funding provided, and expenditures made, shall be done in accordance, and in compliance, with the borough code and other applicable laws.
• Either party, with both in agreement, shall have the right to reasonably modify the responsibilities and obligations of the fire company, and either party shall have the right to terminate this arrangement at any time.
• This document contains the entire understanding between the parties, and supersedes all prior agreements, discussions and understandings relating to the subject matter hereof. No provision of this document may be amended or waived unless such amendment or waiver is agreed to in writing and signed by the parties.
Last month, council agreed to build a three-bay station in the borough lot at Fifth and Lehigh Avenue.
At that time, Danielson said council believes it can build a new station within the budget of the $906,000 grant the borough received.
Danielson said bids to construct the station would go out sometime over the winter, with groundbreaking to occur in the spring.