Blaine Hill VFC responds to social club concerns
Members of Blaine Hill Volunteer Fire Co. responded this week to a local business owner's recent threat to withhold his donation to the fire station over concerns about how the department is being run.
The response, read at a township workshop meeting Monday by Chuck Pershing on behalf of "the majority of the elected officers" of the fire station, characterized the organization as a "volunteer fire company with a social club that provides a place of refuge and social gathering for all of our members along with generating a stable source of revenue for the organization."
Earlier this month at a regular township meeting, automotive repair business owner Dave Striegel asked commissioners to look into ongoing differences between firefighters and officials involved with the fire department's revenue-generating bar. He also threatened to withhold his donations to the organization, which Striegel said amount to thousands of dollars every year.
In the response, Blaine Hill officials stressed the fire company does not use money donated to the organization to fund its bar. They did state, however, that "prior to 2011, there were many misallocations from our general account that would have made this appear to be the case" and alleged that financial managers at the time were trying to make it appear that donations were growing while the company's general account was going bankrupt.
Addressing concerns voiced at the earlier meeting that the fire company's serving alcohol is a liability, the statement said, "The liquor liability is not on the township, it is on the organization. We carry all the insurances needed to protect our volunteers, employees and business in addition to what the township provides for the firefighters."
The statement calls for stricter oversight on how township fire taxes are spent by fire companies, especially where it concerns major purchases. "There should be plans in place that show the purchase can be paid for and the organizations maintain adequate funding to survive."
The township has five fire companies and each receives $35,000 annually in the form of a fire tax from the township.
Blaine Hill and Buena Vista operate as independent VFCs.
The township's other three stations Blythedale, Central and Greenock share a unified command structure.
Blaine Hill firefighters opposed to the majority have expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the fire company and, in a letter circulated earlier this year, called for a "separation of the firefighting force and the social club."
Commissioner Joanne Beckowitz has said township officials have talked for years about separating the bar and fire department in Blaine Hill and at the township's Buena Vista VFC, which is similarly structured, but have never acted on those discussions.
The group identifying itself as the majority said in their statement, "We believe we now have the organization headed in right direction. We also believe the vast majority of our firefighters are upstanding individuals. However, there is a small few that have caused the issues that we are and will continue to correct."
Township board of commissioners president Gene Francesconi said Friday the township hopes the rift in the fire company can be resolved internally.
"Yes, the board is going to be vigilant to make sure the township is protected from any sort of liability," Francesconi said. "But we're not going to tell them how to run their fire department."
Nevertheless, Francesconi said commissioners will continue to monitor the situation, adding, "Our concern is the safety of the community."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport heritage center event recognizes famous black Mon Valley musicians
- Vigil at site of homicide remembers slain McKeesport plumber
- White Oak seeks funds to stabilize road
- Munhall resident pleads guilty but mentally ill for killing his mother
- Duquesne Elementary School students join the ranks of junior constables
- McKeesport Area students share views during Black History Month panel talk
- Steel Valley to post teacher, administrator salaries online
- Clairton City School District seeks savings in food service management
- McKeesport police use stun gun in arrest of Penn Hills man on slew of charges
- Duquesne police arrest suspect in robbery, get warrants in assault
- Work to merge Twin Rivers, Steel Valley councils of governments drags on