Fire company merger plan up in flames

By on November 10, 2015

 

After two years of work by a steering committee and 14 months of other committees working toward merger of the Reamstown, Stevens, and Smokestown volunteer fire companies, a Nov. 5 vote held at each individual fire company failed.

While the votes were close, two of the three company’s votes fell short of the two-thirds majority needed in each company to move forward.

Smokestown Fire Company was the only company voting decisively to move forward with the merger plan.

“We have a lot of young people who are ready to move forward,” said Smokestown Chief Brian Auker, when asked why his company’s vote was so positive.

Responses from the other chiefs differed.

“I don’t really have a comment,” said Stevens Fire Company Chief Chad Weaver, when asked for a statement regarding the final vote. “I was a representative on the committee and my role was to bring back information.”

“I have no comment, just yet,” said Reamstown Fire Company Chief Scott Achey. “I need time to think about everything.”

All three fire company chiefs, when asked if more discussion might re-open work toward a merger, concurred that, after two years of steering committee work, that is not likely to happen.

East Cocalico supervisors have consistently expressed appreciation and support for the 24/7 on-call work of the volunteer firefighters. While supportive of any work toward a merger by the firefighters, they stayed out of the process.

The reason for considering a merger centers on economics.

Fire companies, like any volunteer organization, have a difficult time attracting and keeping volunteer firefighters. The state mandates many courses for new firefighters which take several nights per week. Veterans must continually re-certify. Firefighters must also do a myriad of fundraisers, from Bingo, suppers, craft fairs, soup/sandwich sales, flower sales to chicken bar-b-ques.

Fire company officers complete much paperwork as well as write grants to assist financing new equipment, such as the recent acquisition of new radios. Fire company treasurers must be present to answer questions when the state schedules an audit, which could mean missing work. A merger in East Cocalico would mean one set of officers, not three.

New equipment, such as a truck, must be replaced/upgraded within guidelines. Otherwise, residents are risk higher insurance rates due to lack of up to date equipment to respond quickly to emergencies. Precise planning for equipment upgrades, replacements and purchase could save money.

One veteran firefighter concluded, “In this day and age, it’s how companies survive.”

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