Eastern Derry VFD closes

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Eastern Derry Township Volunteer Fire Department is out of service indefinitely.

The department, which started operations in 1972, closed on Wednesday when its insurance for its vehicles expired.

The Bradenville Volunteer Fire Department said it would provide coverage in Eastern Derry's territory.

Derry Township supervisors last month approved a $30,000 donation to the Derry Township Volunteer Fire Department in Bradenville but did not vote on a donation to the Eastern Derry department. The township donated $25,000 to each of the fire departments in 2012 and $26,000 to each in 2013.

Prior to 2012, the township donated about $12,000 to each department and reimbursed them for insurance expenses.

Supervisors in March approved a resolution requiring both township fire departments to obtain full financial audits every three years, beginning with 2013.

“This is consistent with other municipalities in Pennsylvania and even the federal government,” township solicitor John Rushford said. “Any time an entity seeks out a grant for money, we're accountable to the taxpayers to provide an accounting of where that money goes. The best way to do that is through a complete audit report.”

The Bradenville department completed a satisfactory audit, but Eastern Derry “had some difficulties so we went back to them and said, ‘Here's what we're looking for,' ” Rushford said. “They still were not able to come up with that, so that's why they did not get the donation on time.”

The township reviewed Eastern Derry's audit with its own auditing firm and found “multiple deficiencies,” he said.

“They had an audit done, but it wasn't consistent with general accounting principles. It wasn't a complete audit,” Rushford said.

This is not the first time an agency has questioned the department's recordkeeping. An audit released by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale for the Eastern Derry Township Volunteer Firemen's Relief Association, the nonprofit funding arm of the department, for 2007-2010 noted that in previous audits the department “failed to maintain a complete and accurate equipment roster.”

However, in DePasquale's 2011 report he commended company officers for correcting the omission and providing “a cumulative inventory roster of all equipment used.”

It said the department reported a fund balance of $26,110 at the end of 2010.

Former Eastern Derry fire chief Derrick Bollinger said a certified public accountant from Derry conducted the department's audit for 2013. He estimated insurance for the its vehicles would cost more than $11,000.

The department was counting on the township's donation to pay outstanding bills and cover its vehicle insurance for this year, Bollinger said.

“Without having the money to turn around and pay these outstanding bills like fire truck payments, building payments and insurance, they turned around and shut us down,” Bollinger said. “That's what we were counting on was for that donation to come in to turn around and pay that stuff. If we would have had the donation this year, it would have ... took care of our insurance, it would have took care of our building payments until our fund drive turned around and came about, and we could have turned around and paid some bills; existing bills that needed to be taken care of.”

Bollinger said he was thankful for the community's support, but noted the department's fund drive revenues have slipped in recent years.

“We get money, but we don't get like we used to,” he said. “Years ago, we used to get $15-$16,000 from donations, and nobody has the money anymore to donate.”

Nearby departments will be responsible for responding to calls in that area of the township.

“We are saddened to see any fire company or department that closes,” Bradenville fire chief Mark Piantine said. “Derry Township Volunteer Fire Department of Bradenville is prepared to respond to any calls or emergencies in the former Eastern Derry Volunteer Fire Department's call area.”

Westmoreland County Public Safety Director Roland “Bud” Mertz said adjustments are made when departments are taken out of service.

“We do have normal procedures in place for when a fire company or fire equipment goes out of service,” Mertz said. “We'll just be following those normal procedures. Basically, the next available unit on the readout is put in their place.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com. Staff writer Paul Peirce contributed to this report.

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