The Rice Township Board of Supervisors met at a hastily arranged special
meeting Friday June 14 to vote on advertising an ordinance that
would decertify the Rice Township Volunteer Fire Department as
the primary fire protection and emergency services unit to all the citizens of Rice Township. The entire ordinance
will be advertised and a vote on it will be held at a public meeting
on June 25 at 6 p.m. in the Rice Township Municipal Building.
Advertised in the Times Leader newspaper on Thursday June 13 for
the special meeting at 9:30 a.m. on
Friday June 14, board majority members Miller Stella and George Venesky gave no indication that the meeting was in the offing at their regular
monthly meeting Tuesday June 11.
At the regular monthly meeting June
11 Rice Fire Chief Paul Eyerman once again asked the Rice board to make their legal quarterly payments
of $5750 due from January and April 2013 to the fire company for disbursement for outstanding bills for
fuel, repairs and maintenance. Supervisor Marcia Thomas, who is the Fire Department liaison from the board since January emphasized that the payments were included in the
2013 Rice Township Budget and were due. Stella and Venesky ignored both Eyreman and Thomas.
At the Tuesday meeting Stella said
an executive session would be called later in the week for Eyerman, Thomas and them to discuss the payment request with Rob Brady, a
local policy specialist for Fire and
Emergency Services with the Pennsylvania State Department of
Community and Economic Development. Brady works through the
Center for Local Government Services to provide assistance to foster improved relations between municipal
officials and the fire and emergency services community, management
and leadership resources, and technical assistance for
new Cooperative Partnershipsincluding merging, consolidating andregionalizing emergency services.
Brady has been talking toMountaintop volunteer firecompanies about cooperativepartnerships since 2009.
Rice Chief Paul Eyreman is aWright Township resident, who alsoowns property in Rice. Eyreman hasbeen working toward establishinga working roster of volunteers andannounced in April at the Ricesupervisor’s meeting that the RiceVolunteer Fire Company was workingtoward a merger with the Wright andDorrance Township companies.
Stella and Venesky first announceda plan to decertify the Rice VolunteerFire Department on May 8, when aconference call was arranged withthe Rice supervisors, Brady, and theRice and Wright Township VolunteerFire Company members.
The Rice Supervisors proposalto decertify the Rice Fire Companywas a surprise to the volunteers,” volunteer Charles Garzilli says. “Venesky and Stella are talkingabout contracting fire protectionwith Wright Township. We areRice Township. They are trying todecertify us and are saying we area liability. Venesky and Stella seemto have a personal vendetta againstour fire department and are tryingto decertify us before the merger. There was an issue with an old firechief with money and he has sincebeen removed and arrested. In themeantime, Paul Eyerman is the firechief and we have made great strides. We have new members and theyare currently attending the requiredtraining. We are not a paid firecompany and there can be a lack ofresponse. This is why there are backup fire companies who assist as weassist other companies who cannotrespond. It’s teamwork,” explainedGarzilli in May.
The Rice Volunteer Fire Companyhas been the officially appointed unit