Proposed sale of fire truck sparks debate in Kittanning

| Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012

KITTANNING — Sparks flew during a special borough meeting on Monday as council hotly debated the proposed sale of an aerial fire truck, owned by the borough and currently used by Kittanning Hose Company No. 1.

During last month's meeting, council approved the sale of the fire truck because of expense issues and authorized the advertisement for bids.

But after much debate last night, council voted, 7-0, to allow Hose Company No. 1 until April 15 to secure a $453,000 loan to finance the truck. Mike Rosenberger, newly elected councilman of the 1st ward, was absent.

Although council allowed the company more time to secure a loan, they agreed to continue to look at the bids that already have been submitted.

Council President Chris Schiano spoke in a raised voice while he addressed Gerald Shuster, former council president and spokesman of Hose Company No. 1. Schiano accused members of the company of telling police Chief Ed Cassesse that the borough would be trespassing if it attempted to remove the truck from the fire station.

"That's our truck and it's not trespassing. If you people make us go to court it will cost the borough $10,000 or $12,000," said Schiano, adding that if that happened, the borough would cut off all financial aid to the fire company.

Shuster said that council should talk to him about the matter since he is authorized to speak about it on behalf of the fire company. He denied the accusation that the company would threaten to sue for trespassing and said that the borough was entitled to remove the truck, but that $18,000 worth of both portable and permanently affixed equipment, owned by the company, would have to be removed before it could be sold. He said the fire company has retained a lawyer and said that if council decided to sell the truck, the fire company would not interfere with or prevent prospective bidders from inspecting the vehicle.

"We could make this a legal promise, we will not prohibit anyone from looking at the truck, but they must be advised the equipment is not included," Shuster said.

Shuster asked council to consider the case for the company seeking to purchase the truck from the borough:

"If the proposed sale of the aerial truck is to eliminate the indebtedness allegedly caused by the purchase of the truck, and if council were presented a legally binding, financially sound and acceptable proposal by the fire company, whereby the fire company would assume the remaining balance on the loans for the truck, would council approve the proposal?" Shuster asked.

Schiano responded: "I don't want it with your signature, I want it from a bank -- do you have it?"

Shuster responded that the fire company needed time for one of its financial backers to meet with its board of directors on March 28, which is why he requested council to wait until April 15.

"We're committing to 20 years of payments that the borough no longer has to make," Shuster said.

Councilwoman Lisa McCanna moved to wait until April 15.

"I'm going to vote for this motion out of respect for firemen," Schiano said.

In other business:

• Tom Close, former councilman for the 3rd Ward, raised concerns about some residents who, he said, are putting out too many garbage bags, piling them on top of trash cans without lids. The water collecting in the garbage is adding extra tonnage, which residents end up paying.

"You've got to start enforcing the law as it is written," he said.

Schiano said he would look into the matter.

• Council voted, 6-1, in favor of using liquid fuels money to pave portions of Walnut and South McKean streets this summer and finishing the section of trail south of Chestnut Street with a driving aggregate surface. Turco opposed both measures.

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