by Jonathan Weaver
A last-minute offer from Kittanning Hose Company #1 wasn’t enough to save the ladder truck from eventually leaving Kittanning Borough.
The 2007 Smeal Aerial will continue to be out-for-bid after Kittanning Borough council members rejected the fire department’s last offer during their monthly meeting last night to keep the apparatus.
Representative Gerald Shuster said the department ‘regretfully’ withdrew their offer to assume the entire debt – more than $450,000 – as proposed in February, after meeting with legal and financial advisors.
“To legally bind the Company for nearly a half million dollars for the next 20 years at a time of such economic uncertainty is not a fiscally-sound decision,” Shuster said.
Instead, Shuster and the fire department offered half that amount, through a plan to pay off an outstanding Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) grant – about $124,000 – and give the Borough $100,000 to reduce debt.
Hose Company #1 Fire Chief Gene Stephens said the $100,000 is available due to savings incurred by refinancing the South Jefferson Street firehouse. He said the deal would have allowed for five years of truck payments and predicted firefighters would have been able to use the truck for the next 20 years.
“We told (Council) months ago we were financially-strapped because we had other bills, but now everything is bought and paid for,” Stephens said.
But, Council pointed out other financial assets, such as roads, Borough police and garbage collection, that they said need to be addressed.
It took 4th Ward Councilman Richard Reedy about 10 seconds to consider and motion to reject the offer, which surprised Shuster.
“I’m surprised he reacted so quickly. I think something this important should be given considerably-more time to evaluate,” Shuster said. “Nothing would have prevented this to wait and take action after the opening of the bids.”
Council received two bids for the truck, both under the $450,000 needed to eclipse the loan. New England Fire Equipment and Apparatus Corporation of New Haven, Conn. bid $300,000, while Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus, LLC. of Union Grove, Ala. bid $401,600.
Due to the lower bids, Council voted 7-1 to re-advertise the truck for a minimum-$450,000. 1st Ward Councilwoman Lisa McCanna predicted bid amounts will not raise.
3rd Ward Councilman Ange Turco made the dissenting vote.
Shuster said Borough Council already put close to $300,000 into the truck and will see nothing from their investment if it is sold.
“Whatever money they get out of it, they sell that truck, it’s out of here. With our proposal, at least there was some tangible asset,” Shuster said.
“If this truck’s gone, we’re not going to have it,” McCanna said. “I want (Council) to sit and think what this fire truck means to this community – that’s the intangible value we’re talking about.
“We’re not going to get ($450,000). People that want to buy a fire truck want to get it at a bargain,” McCanna added. “We’ve taken a loss all these years anyhow. Let’s take less of a loss and make it less painful for everyone.”
Council President Chris Sciano said he and Solicitor Chase McClister have had trouble receiving a tax anticipation loan due to the fire truck and that his vote was ‘strictly business.’
“I don’t want any more loans! I want to get rid of that truck!,” Sciano said.
3rd Ward Councilwoman Kim Fox was saddened by her vote, but said it had to be done.
“I don’t want to see the truck go – it breaks my heart – but we have to live with the taxpayers, and we have to look at the shape of the town, and we have to look at the streets. We are in such poor financial shape,” Fox said. “We have to correct the wrongs from the past and get this town back-on-track. It saddens me that that’s the sacrifice that’s probably going to get made.”
Hose Company #1 firefighters will be able to continue to use the truck for fire calls until it is sold.
However, Stephens predicted the fire company would purchase another piece of equipment before the end of 2012.
“We achieved the goals we set in the past – all of them,” Stephens said. “We’ve been in existence since 1880 and we’re still going to be in here in 2080 – I guarantee you that.”
Additionally, garbage collection normally scheduled for this Friday, April 6 will be pushed back to Thursday, April 5. Garbage collection Thursday will also be moved to tomorrow, Wednesday, April 4.
The meeting will be rebroadcast today at 1PM on WTYM AM 1380 radio.