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West Newton fire company sued over ladder truck

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Latrobe-based bank that repossessed a 1981 West Newton fire truck in August has sued the fire department for more than $27,000 because the truck sold at auction for about $25,000 less than the fire company owed on it.

Commercial Bank & Trust of PA sued the West Newton Volunteer Fire Company Inc. in Westmoreland County Court this week for $27,480, which includes $2,500 in attorney fees, according to the lawsuit.

The bank wants the fire company to pay interest on the $24,980 balance owed on the 100-foot ladder truck, plus an undetermined amount of court costs.

Latrobe attorney Daniel Hewitt, who represents the bank, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Neither fire company President Rick E. Waggoner, who signed an agreement on Aug. 3 to surrender the fire truck, nor Chief Craig Sanner could be reached for comment.

The surrender agreement states that the fire company is responsible for the difference between the sale price of the truck and the amount still owed.

The fire truck was taken to the Pittsburgh Independent Auto Auction in Hempfield and was offered for sale three times before an unidentified buyer purchased it in September, according to the suit. The bank said it netted just $4,975 from the sale.

Commercial Bank notified the fire company in July that it had defaulted on repaying the $55,000 loan the bank provided in October 2007. Based on the loan agreement, the fire company was to finish repaying the loan in November 2017.

Sanner said in August that the ladder truck was not being used because it needed repairs that the department determined were too costly. Acquiring parts for the ladder truck was difficult, and they had to be custom-built, he said.

The financially strapped fire department is in the process of selling its fire hall and social hall to Frank Szczerba, owner of Szczerba Excavating Inc. in South Huntingdon.

Szczerba said on Wednesday that the closing on the property will depend on when the paperwork is completed.

He has said he plans to convert the Youghiogheny Ballroom into an industrial park for businesses and he was buying the property as an investment.

Szczerba said he planned to lease the fire truck room to the fire department.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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