Fire department vs. fire company
Also during the council meeting, a settlement was announced in a lawsuit between Macungie Volunteer Fire Department, the borough’s volunteer firefighters, and Macungie Fire Co. No. 1, the social club.
The dispute involved ownership of the property, which the two organizations share.
Atty. James Kratz, who announced the Jan. 8 settlement agreement, said ownership of the entire fire station at 31 S. Walnut St. has been transferred to the fire department and a lease for part of the building has been given to the social club, which will remain there “subject to the terms and conditions of the lease.”
“The closing just took place this past Friday,” said Kratz.
The lawyer, who represented the fire department in the litigation, said “unfortunately” the legal fight cost a lot of money.
Kratz charged the social club purposefully delayed litigation to drive up legal costs in hopes the fire department “would go away. Obviously, that did not happen.”
Business owner Tim Romig said he was told the case cost the fire department alone more than $70,000 in legal fees.
Borough council was told none of the $40,000 in tax dollars that Macungie contributes to the fire department was used to pay for that litigation, but came from another fund earmarked for the purchase of a future fire truck.
“I don’t know what our donation is being spent on,” said Cope. “We’re not seeing the whole picture.”
Two people at the council meeting argued the fire department should make its complete budget available to the public through borough council.
Kratz told council the fire department is not required to share all its financial information with the borough, but only has to account for the money the borough provides to the department.
Becker said he didn’t think council has the right to see the non-profit fire department’s full budget.
“You can request it,” said Armstrong. “The question is whether or not the volunteer fire department would provide it.”
“All I can do is request,” said Becker. “We’re going to make the request. But I can’t guarantee they’ll answer my question.”
But the council president also said council should not just single out the fire department, but also consider requesting such information from other entities that receive contributions from the borough.
Council member Greg Hutchison felt getting a full budget from the fire department, including total donations, is beyond the realm of borough council. “There’s no way we should get into that.”
Boyko said in years past, any time the fire department wanted to spend money contributed by the borough, it would get a voucher and borough officials would write a check.
Addressing the fire department, Boyko said: “Council thanks you for your work. There’s nobody here on a witch hunt.”