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Westmoreland

Irwin budget dispute with fire department heats up

Joe Napsha
| Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, 11:39 a.m.
Firefighters are shown at the scene of a house fire in Irwin that broke out late Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. Pennsylvania Avenue was closed for about a block in either direction.
Firefighters are shown at the scene of a house fire in Irwin that broke out late Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. Pennsylvania Avenue was closed for about a block in either direction.

In a dispute with its fire department, Irwin officials are holding for ransom copies of prior budgets until the borough is reimbursed $2,200 to cover extra ambulance fuel expenses incurred in providing patient transfers.

“When we get what we asked for, we will exchange,” council member Gail Macioce told the fire department at a meeting last week.

“So you don’t trust your local fire hall,” Deputy fire Chief Shawn Stitely said in a testy exchange at Wednesday’s meeting in response to Macioce’s comment.

The two sides could discuss the matter further at a budget workshop Tuesday.

The fire department this summer began a non-emergency patient transfer service and had mistakenly used borough funds to pay for fuel, borough officials said.

Stitely said borough officials never responded to a request he made Aug. 30 for copies of previous annual budgets. The deputy fire chief repeatedly asked when the department could get budgets from previous years.

Council members rebuffed Stitely when he asked for a third private meeting between fire officials and the borough regarding its budget. Through two meetings, the sides “did not get too far,” Stitely said.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions we need to get answers to,” he said.

Borough administrators refused to tell the Tribune-Review what it allocated to the fire department in 2017 and 2018. The newspaper filed a public records request for the information, as well as for an accounting of what the fire department has spent through Sept. 1.

The department was not over budget as of August, council President Rick Burdelski said. It can overspend on a particular line item without being required to reimburse the borough, Burdelski added.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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