Share This Page

Connellsville voters to decide paid fire department's fate

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 6:33 p.m.

Connellsville voters will be able decide on Nov. 4 whether the city will continue with or disband its paid fire department.

On Monday, the Fayette County Election Board unanimously voted to place a referendum on the ballot after Commissioners Angela Zimmerlink and Vincent Zapotosky reviewed legal questions.

Zimmerlink emphasized the referendum must be clear and must require a yes or no answer by the voter.

The referendum will read: “Shall the City of Connellsville disband the paid fire force in favor of having fire protection services performed by volunteers?”

Sheryl R. Heid, solicitor for the Election Board, said the question and the procedure for placing it on the ballot were correct.

She said there are two ways a referendum can be placed. The first is by petition signed by 20 percent of registered voters. The second is by an ordinance passed by the municipal body.

Connellsville council on July 31 passed an ordinance to place the referendum on the ballot.

Zimmerlink emphasized to the few people in the audience that Monday's vote was to authorize the placement of the question on the ballot, not to determine whether Connellsville will have a paid fire department.

Zapotosky questioned whether the result would affect the employment status of the last, single paid firefighter in the city, Lt. Craig Gates.

Timothy Witt, Connellsville city solicitor, responded that Gates' status was covered by the collective bargaining agreement and was not necessarily dependent on the outcome of the referendum.

Gates has been a paid fireman for the city for 13 years.

Witt and Antoinette Tesauro, city clerk, attended the meeting, representing Connellsville.

Placement of the referendum was in accordance with requirements of the state, according to Larry Blosser, director of the Fayette County Election Bureau. He said Monday's vote was within the time allowed after receipt of the request from Connellsville.

Blosser said the referendum will be advertised 10 days prior to the November election.

Although there were several people in the audience on Monday, no one made statements about the referendum.

Connellsville hasn't had a 24/7 paid fire department for nearly 15 years. The staff had dwindled through attrition.

New Haven Hose Company Volunteer Fire Department has been the city's primary fire department since 1991. New Haven Hose is assisted by South Connellsville and Connellsville Township volunteer fire departments.

New Haven Hose has 35 firefighters with an average of 12 firefighters responding to every call, according to Jeff Layton, assistant chief for New Haven Hose.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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.