Rush cuts funding to Quakake fire company; funds Hometown
Hometown Fire Company will still receive funding. JOHN E. USALIS/TIMES NEWS
Rush Township Supervisors cut funding to Quakake Fire Company. JOHN E. USALIS/TIMES NEWS
The Quakake firehouse was originally a one-room schoolhouse. JOHN E. USALIS/TIMES NEWS
The Rush Township Supervisors decided at Thursday’s meeting to provide township firefighting funding only to the Hometown Volunteer Fire Company.
The action cuts all township funding to the Quakake Volunteer Fire Company, and in a subsequent vote, also removed the fire company from being called out for emergencies through the Schuylkill County 911 communications system.
Whether both fire companies will voluntarily combine operations has not been decided by the membership of both organizations, a decision that is not within the municipal powers of the township.
The idea of a consolidation of the Hometown and Quakake companies was proposed by the supervisors during a special meeting held Sept. 18 between the supervisors and fire company officials to discuss the situation.
A second special township meeting was held Oct. 16 to learn whether the idea of a combining of emergency operations was amenable to both fire companies.
At Monday’s meeting, comments from officials of both companies indicated that the idea was acceptable by a majority in both organizations, but no official decision had been made by either company to move forward in combining operations.
The first agenda item under new business dealt with fire tax revenues and other monetary benefits. Supervisor Chairman Shawn E. Gilbert asked for the motion.
“Is there a motion to have all fire tax revenue and other monetary benefits be given by Rush Township to Hometown Volunteer Fire Company only, effective Oct. 19, 2017?” Gilbert asked.
The motion was made by Vice Chairman Robert J. Leibensperger, seconded by Supervisor Jeaninne Motroni, and approved unanimously in a roll-call vote.
There was no discussion before the vote.
“Is there a motion to adopt Resolution 2017-17 which will remove and decertify the Quakake Volunteer Fire Company from the 911 emergency call list?” Gilbert asked.
Leibensperger made the motion, seconded by Motroni. The motion was approved 3-0 in a roll-call vote.
After the meeting, Gilbert said, “We just cut the funding to one fire company. We had two meetings in the last two months and they (Hometown and Quakake) are working on a merger. We only have a certain amount of funding we give them. We have no say on the buildings, equipment, nothing. We have no say. So we’re just transferring the funding over to one fire company. How Hometown and Quakake will operate in a combined scenario is still up to them.
“They’ve been doing that on their own,” Gilbert said. “They’re working it out between themselves.”
Gilbert said if both fire companies reach an agreement to operate as one entity, approvals will be required through the court system.
“There is a whole procedure that you have to go through that has nothing to do with us,” Gilbert explained.
“We’re just taking our funding and putting it into one fire company to make it better. Trying to fund two fire companies in a small community and having them work on a bare minimum scale isn’t working anymore. Years ago it did work.”
The fire companies, the only two in the township, are about 5 miles apart.
“Years ago, there was a lot of volunteerism. You could raise a lot of money. Now you can’t,” Gilbert said. “It’s not there anymore. So now you have to consolidate. In Schuylkill Township there are fire companies trying to do the same thing.”
Members of the Brockton Fire Company and Mary D Volunteer Fire Company in Schuylkill Township are considering combining operations. Hometown fire company president and fire chief Barry Messerschmidt attended the meeting but did not comment.
After the meeting, Messerschmidt said the two companies have not talked since Monday’s meeting, which had about 20 people from both fire companies that discussed the matter after the meeting.
“At this time, I have no comment (on the decision),” Messerschmidt said. “We’ve been asking this whole time if they (Quakake) want to merge with us, but they haven’t decided what they’re doing yet.”
Attempts to reach Quakake fire company officials after the meeting were unsuccessful.