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The ordinance is self explanatory. We
had calls from the game commission. There was illegal burning,
and the list just goes on and on and on,” asserted Stella.
Stella told Taney that if he won the election his phone would be ringing off
the wall. “We have tried and tried,” said Stella.
Taney returned, “Aren’t you the two
majority supervisors that had Captain Bly and you guys praised him.
We need the fire company. Everybody has made a good case here. Closing the fire company, decertifying
the fire company does not
solve the problem. It makes the problem worse. And you’re doing it for
fire protection? We have a fire company that has some problems. Let’s get it back on its feet and let’s
get it back where it belongs,” said
Taney, who summed up his presentation stating that because some people could not get into the meeting
no vote could be taken.
Supervisor Marcia Thomas produced a current roster listing 23
Rice Volunteer Fire Company members, noting that they were returning to strength. Stella said he had
not seen the list.
Several people stated that homeowners’ insurance rates would be affected with the closing of the
Rice Fire Department. Debbie Kendra, a resident of Second Street said she did not believe the majority of
Rice residents knew what was going on with the Rice Volunteer Fire Department
before the decertification ordinance and meeting was advertised.
“If something was going to
affect all the residents, shouldn’t a letter have gone out? Maybe you should give them a chance now that the
community knows what is going on,” said Kendra. “Take a step back. This
is part of our culture here. I am willing to help,” said Kendra, who said she was a Mountaintop native and had lived in Rice Township for half of her life.
Supervisor Thomas said that the Rice fire company was working on
strengthening their numbers to prepare for a merge. Thomas also said the board majority had refused
to provide the funding for the fire company that was approved last
year. “There has been nothing publically discussed of the intention of
the board to decertify the fire department. The public has not been given the right to know. I would like to
see a cool down period of 120 days to work on the merge. This came up two
days after our last public meeting on June 11. We met two weeks ago and
there was nothing on the public record about decertifying. I asked that
it be put on the public record. I asked that we have a public hearing so
that everybody could come to be explained the circumstances so that they
knew,” stated Thomas.
A resident addressed Stella and Venesky for their rude behavior to the public. “That was very rude what you
said to that gentleman back there. The young man was in military fatigues and had been referred to as a
“cowboy”. “You are very cocky. You don’t want to hear what anybody else has to say. You have your own agenda.
You want to end this meeting as
soon as you can and get out of here. There are people waiting outside that have not been able to come in,” said the
Venesky returned, “Thanks, but I don’t
need any lectures from you.” “You should look at yourself in the
mirror right now,” she answered back.
Late in the meeting Karl Kaminski, Wilderness Drive, said, “At this time I
would like to urge the board to table this
so that he public can have more time for input and understanding.” Kaminski was thanked and his suggestion
ignored. Charlie Garzilli, Henry Drive, who had
been the Rice Volunteer Fire Company stationmaster, asked who were
the individuals referenced in the ordinance that were unlicensed and driving under age and under the
influence. Stella said he did not know and Garzilli would have to get
that information from the police department. Garzilli further asked what was so important that you couldn’t
go the 12 to 24 months for a merge. “How about some answers. Where
is the truth?” summed up Garzilli.
Pete Webby, Slocum Township Supervisor and Slocum Volunteer Fire
Company member since 1976 reminded the Rice Board that all of
the Mountaintop fire companies were part of Mutual Aid. “There is no
need to decertify. You are going to pay Wright Township $210,000 of taxpayers money over 7 years. Don’t
you think our taxpayers money would be better spent right here in
Rice Township?” asked Webby. “ Mutual Aide will respond no matter what.
I don’t want to see this fire department thrown away like this. I
would not decertify the Slocum Township fire company. I think you can
work together.” Stella then proposed removing one of the Rice Township trucks from the
township garage and parking a Wright Township fire truck in the Rice
garage. Two Wright Township Volunteer Fire Company officers present
said yes, that they could put one of their vehicles over in the Rice Municipal garage. Stella also
proposed putting lockers in the garage for the Wright firemen.
Stella made a motion to adopt the ordinance seconded by Venesky. John
Rodgers, Ice Lakes, who is also an attorney, offered that voting on the ordinance now was illegal since the meeting had not accommodated all people who wanted to attend. He said he could bring suit against Stella
and Venesky. Stella then called for adjournment without taking a vote.
The public roared in protest at closing the meeting and then Stella
and Venesky rose to their feet shouting “Clear the room, clear the room.”
The public filed out shaking their heads in puzzlement. With the last
one out, except for members of the press, police officers locked the doors.
Video footage on WNEP-TV 16 and
Eyewitness News 28 showed the vote taken in the empty meeting room.
Stella and Venesky then entertained questions from reporters.