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Audit not yet ordered for local fire company

| Thursday, March 10, 2005

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP - Residents at the supervisors' regular monthly meeting Wednesday requested an update concerning an investigation of the financial history of the community's money strapped fire department.

Fire department officials said in December that the company was in danger of closing because it owed $946,781, including $827,000 from a Smithfield Bank loan obtained two years ago.

Some department members said the organization has suffered in the past several years from a lagging economy, inflation and a decrease in fund-raising revenue.

At a series of public meetings, some residents said they suspected money had been embezzled from the department.

Township Solicitor Mark Ramsier sent a letter Jan. 4 to Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon, requesting that her office conduct an investigation into the fire company's financial history.

Vernon said in a response letter that she would order an investigation only after an audit of the fire department's records is performed and reveals that illegal activity could have occurred.

Melvin Weiss, chairman of the township's board of supervisors, said the supervisors are involved in seeking prices to conduct such a financial review.

The supervisors previously said the cost of the audit would be taken from the annual donation the township gives to the fire department.

The board members said last night that they have to see if paying for the audit that way is permitted.

The supervisors recently formed a financial board comprising six residents and one firefighter to oversee the fire department's finances.

Resident Arnie Dull, a member of the financial committee, said the new board met for the second time Tuesday.

He said the board members have begun to receive and review current financial reports from the fire company.

The supervisors honored Dull's request to change the financial board's meetings from twice a month to once a month.

In an unrelated matter, the supervisors tentatively designated how they plan to use $86,084 in state Community Development Block Grant money this year.

During a special session before their regular meeting, the supervisors met with Andrew French, executive director of the Fayette County Redevelopment Authority.

Each year, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development distributes money to the township through the county.

The money can be used to improve infrastructure or for rehabilitation projects and work that will benefit low and moderate income housing areas.

The supervisors agreed to set aside $46,084 for ongoing road repaving and drainage installation projects in the Brownstown area.

The board also reserved $15,000 for the community's Center on the Hill facility and $15,000 for housing rehabilitation.

The supervisors plan to use $10,000 of the money to pave part of the veterans' park and install handicapped accessibility for the area, which runs along Route 201.

The supervisors said the CDBG money can be redistributed if it is needed in other areas.

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