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Tempers flare at Cheswick Council meeting over fire department

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By Kate Wilcox
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:06 a.m.

Cheswick Council's meeting erupted into a shouting match between council members and residents on Tuesday night because of council's suggestion to contract out fire department services.

Councilman John Skedel was forcefully in support of shutting down the Cheswick Volunteer Fire Company.

The vocal majority of residents at the meeting supported keeping the fire department intact.

Cheswick received a proposal from Allegheny Valley Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 to serve the borough for $8,900 a year.

Cheswick's fire department costs the borough $17,500. Other costs are borne by the fire department.

“We have to watch the dollars,” Skedel said. He added that the fire department requested $4,000 for new fire equipment.

Resident Marie DeSantis asked council to place the issue on the ballot in May.

“Money isn't everything,” she said. “I want to know my house is going to be safe if it goes up in flames.”

But council President Vickie Roolf argued that the community has too many fire departments servicing a small area.

“I feel we're the Allegheny Valley, and this valley should have a police department and a fire department,” she said. “It never made sense to have four fire departments.”

Allegheny Valley Fire Company was formed last year from a merger of the Harmar and Springdale township fire departments.

Resident Lindsay Sandusky cautioned against turning to Allegheny Valley Fire Company.

“You will not be happy with how they respond,” he said. “If you go with them, this community will have a horrible problem here because they don't respond as they should.”

A call to Allegheny Valley Fire Company Chief George Manning following last night's meeting was not immediately returned.

Lewis Accorsi, resident and former Cheswick fire chief, said he would like council to sit down again with the fire department.

“It's not just up to the people at this table,” he said.

Roolf said that after the 2013 budget is completed, council will schedule a meeting to discuss fire service.

“Who responded first to the last fire?” challenged Skedel.

“We did,” answered Joshua Sandusky, Lindsay Sandusky's son and a volunteer at the Cheswick fire department. Mayor Daniel Carroll nodded in agreement.

“Well, you don't always,” Skedel said.

Kate Wilcox is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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