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Threat of fire department's shutdown ignites uproar

PHILIPSBURG — Philipsburg Borough currently has two fire companies — Hope Vol. Fire Co and Reliance Vol. Fire Co. — that together make up the Philipsburg Fire Department.

But the borough is currently exploring the possibility of decertifying Reliance Fire Co.

A special meeting held on Thursday by Philipsburg Borough Council resulted in officials considering taking further action in the form of an ordinance to be voted on at a meeting on Monday, Jan. 20. At that meeting, council could amend the borough code “relating to fire protection by decertifying Reliance Fire Company No. 1 as a recognized volunteer fire company authorized to fight fire or provide emergency services in the borough.”

In other words, volunteer firefighters at Reliance would no longer be able to respond to borough emergencies.

Council President Barb Gette told The Progress on Monday that circumstances have been leading up to this moment for some time, stating borough officials have asked for information from the company at times and have either not received that information in a timely manner, or have not received the information at all.

“The borough has asked Reliance for policies, documentation and (other stuff),” Gette said. “And they’ve not been ready to comply. So we’ve been working with them, trying to make them understand that they have to (comply).”

Within the last month, Gette said the borough was informed that an election was held within the Philipsburg Fire Dept. where Gette said it is her understanding that Hope Fire Co. was not involved.

“We have asked for documentation concerning the election, but have not been given any,” Gette said.

Gette said because of this, council decided not to accept the election results and took the steps to decertify Reliance. Gette said that action would result in the fire company not be recognized by the borough as a “functioning fire company.”

“This is something that none of us want to do, but enough is enough,” Gette said. “It’s our obligation that our fire department is functioning and our residents’ safety has to be important. We just don’t know where else to go with this. It’s going to be a shock to everybody (if the ordinance is approved.) The fire company is meeting the needs of the residents, but it’s not functioning as an entity.”

Gette cited talks that occurred years ago with the merger of Reliance and Hope into one fire company, with citizens helping it move forward — only to have Reliance back out at the very end.

“We had independent outside businessmen as a committee to help them merge,” Gette said. “It wasn’t the borough — it was the businessmen volunteering to do this with their time. Then all of a sudden when the work was done, Reliance decided they didn’t want it. So, we don’t know where to go with this.”

In terms of being decertified for Philipsburg Borough, Gette said they could still remain a fire company of other municipalities if they were certified in those areas.

“I hope that happens,” Gette said. “I think we all hope that happens.”

Philipsburg Borough gives funds each year to the Moshannon Valley Fire Council, which is comprised of fire companies in Philipsburg Borough, Rush Township and Boggs Township. Gette said the fire council then in turn distributes the funding to the respective companies.

If Reliance is decertified, Gette said she’s unsure how it would affect funding. However, Gette feels having one less fire company in the borough would not affect the quality of fire protection that residents would receive if an emergency occurred.

“I feel confident that the coverage will be there because of the remaining local fire companies and others (nearby),” Gette said.

Reliance Fire Co. Chief John Huber said he feels the situation started whenever they discovered that Hope and Reliance were not receiving the equal funding from fire council — although Huber stated he did not know the specific numbers.

“We’ve got to start working together to make a fire department,” Huber said. “It’s not going to work by fighting back and forth right now.”

Huber said if they are decertified, fire insurance “will go through the roof.” The company would then not be legally allowed to fight borough fires. However, Huber said if something popped up where there was a fire and “someone is in jeopardy, we’re going to go.”

Regarding to the election that Gette cited as a problem, Huber said every year there is an election between Hope and Reliance for the Philipsburg Fire Department.

“We ran for all of the chair offices and Reliance won all of the chair offices because the president, the secretary and the treasurer all declined,” Huber said.

Huber said Philipsburg Fire Department Chief Jeff Harris “declined his election,” therefore Clay Gilham became the new chief.

“Clay won the election and they’re saying it’s an unfair election,” Huber said. “Well, we followed everything by the bylaws so I don’t understand how it’s an unfair election, but that’s what they’re saying.”

Huber confirmed that Reliance could still legally fight fires in Rush and Boggs townships, as they are also a part of the fire council.

“There’s a lot of things that need to be played out that people aren’t aware of,” Huber said. “Just shutting the fire company down just because we wanted to know where the money’s at isn’t a thing to do.”

Huber reiterated that if someone is in danger in the borough, he believes they will still go out to help.

“With me speaking as Reliance’s chief, if there’s a call in Philipsburg Borough and somebody’s in jeopardy, I believe me and my guys are going to go,” Huber said.

While the matter can be voted on at Monday’s meeting, in which Huber said he and others will be attending, he hopes the borough will wait to gather more information.

“There’s a lot of stuff that residents need to hear (before a decision is made),” Huber said.


Progress_news
featured
McCracken named to top post at charitable foundation

As the Clearfield County Charitable Foundation approaches its 20th year of existence and a new decade begins, the board of directors of the foundation has been looking at ways to stimulate growth and identify new projects for the foundation to become involved in.

To attain this goal, in early 2019, the board of directors began searching for an executive director to run the operations of the foundation and a central location for an office for the foundation.

Foundation Board Chairman Kevin McMillen announced the Clearfield County Charitable Foundation is appointing Mark B. McCracken to the position of Executive Director and, in the very near future, an office for the foundation will be opened in the former Sears building at the corner of Market and Third streets in Clearfield. The office space is being leased from Community Media Group, the parent company of The Progress.

McMillen stated, “We are pleased to have Mark McCracken working for the Clearfield County Charitable Foundation. He recently completed 16 years serving as Clearfield County Commissioner and has experience working with communities and leaders throughout the county. He has past experience serving on area charitable and community agency boards including the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging, Central Pennsylvania Community Action, Clearfield Area United Way and the former Clearfield Chapter of the American Red Cross.”

“Additionally, Mark has served on many important regional and state level boards including the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission board, was twice appointed by Governor Tom Wolf to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency 911 Advisory Committee and was a founding member of the Pennsylvania Counties Health Insurance Purchasing Cooperative, where he served 10 years as chairman of the PCHIPC board.”

On accepting the position, McCracken said, “This is an exciting opportunity and I look forward to continuing the work the original founders of the Clearfield County Charitable Foundation started almost 20 years ago. The current board of directors have put a great amount of time and effort into growing the foundation in recent years and I want to build on that success.

“I am also looking forward to working with the people who have established individual funds managed by the foundation. My foremost goal is to recruit new involvement and grow all the funds so communities and individuals throughout Clearfield County can see benefits and positive results,” McCracken said.

The foundation was formed on Nov. 4, 2001, starting with one fund valued at $10,000 and has now grown to 46 active funds totaling almost $7 million in value as of Dec. 31, 2019. Through scholarships and grants, the Clearfield County Charitable Foundation is working to enhance the quality of living in communities all over Clearfield County. Since 2006, the CCCF grant program alone has awarded over $102,900 to 74 different groups in Clearfield County.

You can learn more about the Clearfield County Charitable Foundation by visiting their website at www. clearfieldcharitablefoundation.org.


Progress_news
Thompson announces reelection campaign

HOWARD — U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson announced Monday his intention to seek reelection to Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District.

The “Vision 2020: Building on Success” tour will begin on Friday, Jan. 24 in Indiana County, with events throughout the next week taking Thompson to the 13 other counties that make up the 15th district.

Prior to being elected to Congress, Thompson spent nearly 30 years working in non-profit healthcare, focused on helping individuals with life changing disease and disability.

As a volunteer firefighter, EMT, and scout leader, his life’s mission has been dedicated to serving his neighbors and community.

The father of a Purple Heart Wounded Warrior, Thompson understands the sacrifice our veterans and troops make everyday and works to keep our commitments to them.

Thompson cites being humbled by working with President Donald Trump to pass legislation making it easier to train workers and create access to new opportunities, in order to fill the 7.1 million jobs available across the country.

“This tour is a great way to focus on the issues and highlight some of the successes we’ve had, whether legislatively or with constituent casework and advocacy. Together, we’ve delivered on lower taxes, higher wages, and a better economy for Pennsylvania’s farmers, small businesses, and families,” said Thompson.

In 2019, Thompson and his staff held more than 1,100 meetings in the district, sitting down with constituents to solve problems and learn more about their most pressing issues and challenges.

In the coming week, Thompson has more than 30 events scheduled throughout the district and will be joined by friends, supporters, farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses.

“As I travel the 15th District, there is a lot of optimism about the economy and we are seeing America’s innovation and entrepreneurial potential being unleashed. But, there is still much to be done when it comes to strengthening our communities, staying vigilant against substance abuse and addiction, and tackling our broken immigration system. I want to ensure that our region continues to have a strong voice in Washington and to earn reelection the way I have in the past, through hard work, being present, and communicating with the constituents,” Thompson added.

For more information and a schedule of events, visit www.GTThompson.com.


Submitted 

Dimes and Dementia

Dimes and Dementia


Local
County approves salary list

The Clearfield County Salary Board approved the county employee salary lists for 2020 at Monday’s meeting:

Elected officials: Controller Charles Adamson, $45,339.30, and retirement secretary, $3,300; Treasurer Carol Fox, $45,339.30; Register and Recorder Maurene Inlow $50,094.73; Commissioners Dave Glass, Tony Scotto and Sobel, $50,672.96; Coroner Kimberlee Snyder, $45,339.30; Prothonotary Brian K. Spencer, $50,094.73; and Sheriff Michael Churner, $45,339.30.

The salaries of elected officials are the same as 2019.

Non-elected salaried employees as follows: Juvenile Probation Officer Jeffrey Aveni, $44,094; Public Defender Dan Bell, $49,121 and guard ad litem, $22,956; Juvenile Probation Officer Allen Bietz, $38,301.78; EMA Director Joe Bigar Jr., $46,000; Planning and Solid Waste Director Jodi Brennan, $61,560.11; Adult Probation Supervisor of Collections Andrew Brown, $26,700; Adult Probation Director Shawn Burkhart, $51,000; Adult Probation Officer IPP Scott Cline, $41,725; Warden Gregory Collins, $50,000; Quality Assurance Kylie Collins $32,000; Tax Assessor Director Lisa Conrad, $47,500; and Adult Probation Officer Michael Cook, $35,00.

Director of IT Adam Curry $40,250; Juvenile Probation Supervisor Christine Davis, $49,646; Adult Probation Officers Derek Dixon $28,885; DRO DuBois Office Supervisor James Dunsmore, $41,255.78; Casework Supervisor Susan Duttry, $43,306.51; Adult Probation Officer Katelyn Ecke $25,800; Juvenile Probation Officer Andrew Edinger $35,441.82; Juvenile Probation Officer Cristina Esposito, $27,800; and Tax Claims Assistant Director Melissa Fahr, $28,500.

Judicial Secretary Doris Folmar, $35,509.72; Deputy Warden Alex George $35,000; Adult Probation Officer IPP Steven Gillespie, $40,718.42; Elections Director Dawn Graham, $33,559.05; Assistant Director of IT Justin Jarrett $26,750; Assistant Public Defender Steven Johnston $41,250; Tourism Director Josiah Jones $51,450, and right-to-know officer, $3,300; GIS Director John Kaskan, $45,960.02; Adult Probation Officer Philip Keith $26,450; Community Development Specialist Lisa Kovalick, $50,364; Deputy Treasurer Bonnie Kuklinskie, $35,494.19; Part-Time Public Defender Michael Marshall, $27,307.

911 Director David McClure $46,000; Chief Clerk Lisa McFadden, $42,522.70; Clerical Supervisor Lisa McLaughlin, $33,516.35; Deputy Director Logistics and Technology Scott Mignot, $40,750; Part-Time Assistant District Attorney Warren Mikesell, $26,807; Deputy Controller Kathleen Miller, $38,250; Adult Probation Supervisor Zachary Murone, $44,000; and Caseworker Supervisor Debbie Myers $31,000.

Veterans Director Betina Nicklas, $38,750; Domestic Relations Assistant Director Beverly Oswalt, $47,649.58; Part-Time Public Defender Chris Pentz $27,307; DRO Director Rick Redden, $54,637.54; Voter Registration Director Donna Reese $33,559; Victim Witness Director Margaret Rosselli, $32,850; 911 Coordinator Jeremy Ruffner, $41,000; IPP Timothy Ryen, $35,132; and Human Resource Officer Marianne Sankey, $41,823.10, and right-to-know officer, $3,300.

Assistant Public Defender Jendi Schwab, $40,500; Judicial Secretary Judy Shirey, $35,509.72; Director of Nursing Jodi Simcox $48,000; CYS Director Leslie Smeal, $46,000; Conference Officer Supervisor Dennis Socash, $42,141.24; Deputy Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts Gidget Spencer $26,000; Adult Probation Officer Bradley Stubbs $25,800; Assistant Tourism Director Susan Swales Vitullo, $37,500; Chief Deputy Sheriff Robert Thomas $39,000; Caseworker Supervisor Kelsey Vitullo, $31,000; Adult Probation Community Service Thad Walstrom, $35,002; Caseworker Supervisor Tonya Weitoish, $39,109.88; and Enforcement Officer Supervisor Julee Welker, $42,141.24.