COALPORT — Following a few heated discussions, Coalport Borough Council tabled making any decisions on the fire protection contract it holds with Glendale Volunteer Fire Co.
A line item in the agenda for Monday’s council meeting published on the borough’s Facebook page noted council planned to consider terminating the fire protection contract it holds with the fire department. The contract’s terms includes a donation from the borough to the fire company in the amount of $3,500.
President Paul Zupich on Monday stressed again he did not believe the previous council should have entered any contracts on behalf of the borough because members don’t have and haven’t had firm information about its finances.
“I attended a meeting in 2020 and asked council what money it had. None of them could tell me…The borough is on the edge of insolvency which has created this whole problem,” Zupich said.
He said along with Beccaria and Reade townships, the borough assumes a portion of the cost of providing the fire company’s worker’s compensation — insurance it is responsible for by state law. The annual cost is approximately $9,000 with each municipality’s share determined by its population and other factors.
The borough also passes along state foreign fire insurance monies it receives to the fire company, Zupich said.
Zupich said until the borough resolves a host of issues with state and federal financial agencies, council cannot authorize any expenses that are not critical to the operation of the borough. Members are also currently exploring ways to reduce those operating costs.
Glendale firefighter Patrick Hamilton told council during the public comment portion of the meeting and prior to the vote to table action, he believed “They have undone two years of faithful bargaining, and relationships that have been improved have been shattered. I understand the financial burdens of the borough but to pull financing from firefighters who are putting their lives on the line is heartbreaking.”
Hamilton said contract or not, the fire company will continue aiding the residents of the town.
“We will serve and protect the community with everything we have.”
He said by considering breaking the current contract, the borough would needlessly again be involving all those involved in previous negotiations including both the fire company’s and the borough’s solicitors.
Councilman Shawn Yingling asked the approximately 30 people who attended the meeting in support the fire company, “If council doesn’t pay (the fire company), in two years will the doors still be open? (The borough’s) won’t. There is no choice because there’s no money.”
Council members Kevin Swauger and LaDawn Yingling also explained the borough’s current financial dilemma.
Swauger said, “Council can’t spend money it doesn’t have.” LaDawn Yingling told the crowd, “We don’t know what the borough’s finances are,” adding, she had worked many evenings after work trying to make sense of the borough’s financial documents but had to give up.
Zupich said because the borough is facing so many financial unknowns because it hasn’t resolved issues with both the Internal Revenue Service and the state Department of Revenue, and dealt with the consequences of those issues. He said his solution for the time being is for the borough to not pay any expenses it can put off.
“My solution is to just shut everything down,” he noted.
Fire Chief Adam Rydbom, who reviewed some of the borough’s earlier finance reports provided by Zupich, told him he didn’t believe they made any sense and suggested council table taking any action on the contract while it starts working through the borough’s financial issues.
“Don’t terminate the contract. Wait until later in the year before you do anything. We can even go until December while you figure out what you need to do.” Rydbom suggested a progress report to be given by council during late summer.
Zupich and Rydbom shook hands after agreeing verbally they both believed the current solution is for council to wait to take action.
The vote to table action on the contract was unanimous.