Pa. fire chief 'shocked' by funding cuts
The borough council decided to cut their contributions to the department's vehicle maintenence fund by over 50 percent
By Joe Napsha
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
IRWIN, Pa. — The Irwin deputy fire chief is red hot over borough council's decision to slash its contribution to the department's vehicle maintenance fund by more than 50 percent.
In a year when council raised property taxes by 3 mills, borough officials said they were forced to cut costs to reduce a projected deficit.
Council cut its contribution to the fire department's vehicle maintenance budget from $12,000 in 2015 to $5,500 this year and cut its contribution for building maintenance from $6,000 to $3,000.
Deputy fire Chief Shawn Stitely told council at its meeting on Wednesday that the reduction will hurt the department because expenses for vehicle maintenance will far exceed the budgeted amount.
“The most important line item in the budget was cut in half,” Stitely said. “That was a wrong line item to take it out of.”
The fire department has spent $2,875 this year on vehicle maintenance and anticipates spending about $12,375 this year on maintenance and equipment testing, Stitely said.
“We were really, really shocked. No one told us,” Stitely said.
Stitely said building maintenance, including electrical work, will have to be spread over two or three years.
Plans to install more fire hydrants are on hold because of the lack of funding, Stitely said.
Councilman Mike Yunn said council did not have input from the fire department on its vehicle maintenance costs when it was preparing the 2016 budget. Stitely apologized for missing council's budget meetings last year because of scheduling conflicts.
“You need to work with us at budget time,” Councilman Robert Dittman said.
Council President John Cassandro said council would form a committee to work with the fire department on budget matters.
In a related item, council agreed to pay $6,119 and $7,902 for repairs on two fire trucks. The vehicles were damaged in accidents covered by insurance claims. The money would be taken from the borough's capital reserve fund, designated for fire truck repairs.
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