Fire company likely to lose aerial truck

| Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It appears after Monday's council meeting that Kittanning's Hose Company 1 will lose its aerial ladder truck after all.

Last month, Gerald Shuster, president of Hose Company 1, had asked that council give the fire company until April 15 to secure a $453,000 loan to buy the Smeal 105 Aerial Ladder truck from the borough. Council agreed but also opened its purchase to bidders.

Last night, Shuster told council that after members of the fire company consulted with legal and financial advisors, they determined it was not fiscally sound "to legally bind the company for nearly a half million dollars for the next 20 years."

The fire company regretfully withdraws its offer," said Shuster.

He also said the fire company would not take any legal action to prevent the sale, but stipulated that council allow adequate time for the removal of all company-owned equipment from the truck

Shuster also presented council with one last option:

He proposed the fire company assume the $124,000 balance of the PA Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) loan and give the borough $100,000 in cash, which he argued would reduce the borough's debt by 50 percent. It would also allow borough council to request a re-negotiation for the loan for better terms while keeping the truck in the community.

He concluded by saying that the borough has already paid nearly $300,000 since purchasing the 2008 truck and will have spent that amount for an asset it will no longer have.

Council voted 5-2 to reject the proposal. Council members voting against the offer were Joie Pryde, Kim Fox, Richard Reedy, Andrew Peters and Chris Schiano. voting to accept it were Ange Turco and Lisa McCanna. Mike Rosenberger abstained.

After opening and reviewing all bids for the sale of the truck -- one from a vendor in Connecticut for $300,000 and one from a vendor in Alabama for $401,600 -- council voted 8-0 to reject the bids and to readvertize the sale of the truck, setting a minimum of $450,000.

Gene Stephens, the company's fire chief, made a last pitch for council to reconsider the option which Shuster presented.

Council President Chris Schiano said: " We need to become solvent and get out from under the loan."

Councilwoman Kim Fox agreed:

"I don't want to see the truck go," she told Stephens. "It breaks my heart. But we are worse than any municipality. We are in such bad shape, we have to get back on track. It's a financial struggle for you to keep it, it's a financial struggle for us to keep it."

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