Pa. county commissioners blasted for taking back fire truck

Residents shouted for the truck to be returned and for the commissioners who voted to take it out to service to resign

By Emily Balser
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

SPRINGDALE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Springdale Township residents on Thursday night packed what was supposed to be township commissioners budget meeting to blast officials for taking a fire truck out of service from the Allegheny Valley Volunteer Fire Company.

The move to take the fire truck out of service was made during the township's Jan. 2 reorganization meeting, during which two new commissioners, Shirley Redman and Tim Sweet, were sworn in.

As a result, the fire company turned over the 17-year-old 2001 Kenworth truck to the township on Jan. 5.

The township bought the truck for the township's fire company in 2001, years before its 2012 merger with Harmar.

The township still owns the truck and plans to sell it.

Residents questioned why the commissioners were in such a hurry to make the decision without seeking public input before acting.

Residents shouted for the truck to be returned and for the commissioners who voted to take it out to service to resign.

Commissioners Anthony Rozzano, Redman and Sweet voted Jan. 2 to take the truck out of service. Commissioner Henrietta James voted against it. Commissioner James Biery wasn't at the Jan. 2 meeting.

Rozzano, who is commissioners' president, said the decision was made during the reorganization meeting because "nothing ever gets done in this town."

"I'm a productive person," he said.

He said the township needs the money to put toward repairing roads and fixing sewer issues.

Sweet and Redman said they thought they were doing the right thing for the taxpayers by taking the truck out of service.

"I felt that the fire company wanted to sell the fire truck," Sweet said.

Even as residents pressed the commissioners to return the truck to the fire company, none of them made any action to move in that direction.

Rozzano said he would entertain the idea of returning it to service if the fire company would house a truck in the township's Orrville section.

Fire company officials said it isn't necessary to house a fire truck in that section because that area is amply covered.

James said Rozzano has compromised the safety of the residents by taking the truck out of service.

Residents blast commissioners

Residents blasted the board for making the decision so quickly.

"You made a very reckless, uninformed decision," said Leslie Phillips.

Resident Mark Ruppert said he was having trouble trusting the board after the decisions made at the reorganization meeting.

"We're off to a bad start," he said.

Resident and volunteer firefighter Joe Luera pressed the board for answers.

"Why in the world would the commissioners, before taking it away, not talk with the community?" he asked.

Rozzano released a statement on the fire truck.

Rozzano says he was approached

Rozzano said one of the reasons he wanted to take the fire truck out of service was because there had been discussion about the truck between himself and what he calls a "middle grade ranking officer" of the fire company during bingo at the fire hall.

He referenced a conversation where the officer allegedly "had a proposition" for Rozzano to get the title of the truck and give it to him "discretely."

Rozzano said the fire company wanted the fire truck title so the company could sell it.

The situation went on for several months, beginning last July, according to Rozzano.

He said he attended the monthly firemen's meeting and told the fire chief he needed to have the company president write a letter to township commissioners' president at the time, James, so the issue could be worked out.

Fire company President Chuck Miller said the company never intended to sell the fire truck and that's why no letter was sent.

"All of these discussions that you reference, not one of them took place with me," Miller said.

Rozzano said when the new board of commissioners met Jan. 2, and after consulting with a lawyer, they decided to take the truck out of service and put it up for sale "to replenish some of the taxpayers money that was spent buying the truck and paying for the maintenance for the past 17 years."

Fire company president: 'Sneaky, uncalled for'

Miller said the way the board took back the truck was "very sneaky and very uncalled for."

Fire Chief Kevin Funkhouser said earlier in the week he doesn't know who Rozzano is referencing in the statement.

He said conversations about what to do with the truck did happen during fire company meetings, including bingo nights, which he said Rozzano was a part of because he was a fire company member.

Rozzano confirmed he resigned from the fire company in November.

"We didn't know whether we were going to sell equipment, keep equipment," Funkhouser said. "It was just a lot of talk."

Some of the fire company volunteers attend the commissioners' meetings, but the issue of the truck's title was never formally brought up, Funkhouser said.

He said the fire company didn't know the commissioners were going to make a decision during the Jan. 2 meeting.

"We were never informed of the reorganization meeting or that this was being brought up at this meeting," he said.

Copyright 2018 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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