Rice Supervisors Miller Stella and George Venesky approved a 10-year contract with the Wright Township Volunteer Fire Company at a special meeting Wednesday September 25. Minority supervisor Marcia Thomas voted No.
Rice Solicitor Bill Higgs and an unnamed attorney for Wright Township Volunteer Fire Company drew up the 9-page contract. Higgs was unable to remember the name of the fire company attorney and said he would look it up in his files and get back to the Eagle later. The Eagle also contacted Wright Fire Chief Dave Pettit asking for the same information. At press time Higgs and Pettit had not responded.
Rice will pay Wright a minimum of $30,000 for 2014 and for subsequent years until 2023. The yearly cost will be based on population and consumer price indexes. If the contract is broken by Rice Township, the total cost of payments for the 10-year contract will be immediately due up to $39,000 per year or $390,000.
Rice will pay for 37% of the workman’s compensation insurance bill for the Wright Volunteer Fire Company, as Rice encompasses that same percentage of the total coverage area of Rice and Wright Townships. Attorney Higgs said the Workman’s Comp figure is compiled by Harrisburg, who sends the bill out annually.
In addition Rice Township will build or make available a garage for Wright Fire Equipment within 24 months or pay an additional $500 per month until a garage is built. If expanded emergency services or additional work is agreed to and implemented Rice Township will change the financial terms to reflect the additional cost.
Rice Auditor Janeann Lokken questioned the board about the parameters of the 9-page contract before the vote commenting on the 10-year term as being excessive. Miller Stella said that in negotiating the contract with Wright Township provision was made for acquiring equipment that would be needed over the years.
Barb Deaton objected to putting a Wright fire truck in the township garage, and therefore parking the townships’ road trucks and equipment out in the weather. George Venesky said that the equipment would be covered with tarps and a carport would be built to shelter it from weather.
Ronald Black, Heslop Road said he had experience of 50 years writing contracts and the fire department contract on the table was “ludicrous and asinine” and a “piece of garbage.” “There is no protection for Rice Township. You have already spent double. The next board of supervisors must vacate this contract,” continued Black.
Mary Ann Whitonis warned the board, “When the political tables change, an ordinance can be passed to decertify Wright Township.” She said the Independence Fire Company is answering calls from the former Rice Twp. Volunteer Fire Company location. Minority Supervisor Marcia Thomas said that the more emergency services, the better for all.