Chief Joel Warner of the Citizens Fire Company addressed the Mechanicsburg Borough Council with concerns about the steering committee aimed at merging Mechanicsburg's fire companies.
Warner acknowledged that both fire companies were approached about a potential merger, and while they are receptive to the idea, he said there were some issues that needed addressed. Choosing representatives for the committee is a major issue to Warner, who said the actions taken by the borough have shown that members in the committee have been decided “without any fire department involvement.” He also expressed his disappointment in the borough not sending fourth-quarter allotments to either fire department.
A lack of communication was also disturbing to Warner.
“At no such time is open communication between a borough and fire departments more important,” Warner said. “Regrettably, we’ve only had two meetings between the borough and the fire departments since May to discuss any issues at hand, when just the opposite should be occurring.”
Though the fire departments have been requested to send in their recommendations for two non-transferable members to be on the committee, Warner said that doing so would be committing the fire departments to a committee that “appears to be designed to not have been designed to be the most constructive.”
When he asked the board to clarify what “non-transferable” meant, Councilman Mark Stoner explained that it was meant to keep the same individuals with the same ideas on the committee instead of changing it up every year or so.
Warner was not sold on the idea.
“The volunteer fire services are very dynamic,” Warner said. “I can lose my position in December, and somebody’s going to fill my position as a chief within my department, and I’m not going to sit on this committee if that occurs.”
Warner reassured that he was not arguing with non-transferable seats, but he did request that the board consider having three seated members from each company with one alternate.
Council President J. Matthew Seagrist said Warner’s concerns of the setup of the committee stem from the committee straying away from guidelines set up by the Department of Community and Economic Growth.
“It’s a guideline,” Seagrist said. “DCED would be the first to advocate that they’re not talking about a cookie cutter strategy.”
Warner continued to disagree, citing other townships such as East Pennsboro Township and South Middleton Township, which he said have used the three-person committee with an alternate.
“Those systems have worked,” Warner said. Seagrist agreed, but said the proposed system for Mechanicsburg will work for the borough.
Warner countered, “We disagree with you; we collectively disagree with you.”
Seagrist reiterated the borough would be in control of the forming of the council, as well as making decisions that are passed on from the steering committee.
“In the end, it’s the borough council’s decision on how to proceed with the potential merger,” Seagrist said.
Warner brought up a potential tie in the voting process that may result in having a total of four representatives from the fire company, in which Seagrist dismissed the scenario as hypothetical.
“This group of people are going to sit down, they’re going to look at all the options, they’re going to submit to borough council their set of proposals and it will be up to council to decide whether or not we want to concur with that,” Seagrist said.
The first meeting of the steering council will be on Nov. 29. Stoner said that while the meetings will not be open to the public, information on what was discussed at the meetings will be released.