LITCHFIELD – Over the course of the past few Litchfield Township meetings, resident George Seeley has raised questions and concerns regarding the township’s volunteer fire company.

During Monday’s meeting, Seeley reiterated his desire to see a report showing the fire company’s use of appropriated moneys for the completed year, as is required in Article XVIII of Pennsylvania General Assembly’s 1933 Act 69.

Secretary Kathi Hunsinger had just received the annual report from assistant fire chief Steve Merrill, which shows the actual expenses from 2021 alongside the budgeted funds for 2022.

Over the past few months there’s been a back and forth debate between Seeley and Litchfield Fire Chief Joe Drake on whether or not the budget/actual report meets the requirements of Article XVIII.

Seeley has also repeatedly called for more financial transparency from the fire company, and on Monday he questioned how much money the fire company is building up in its savings accounts.

“The township issues a financial report every year, (but) the residents of the township have no idea what the fire company does have financially,” Seeley said. “The budget doesn’t really tell us the financial condition of the fire company.”

“Whatever the (fire department’s) bank account is now, do we wake up one day and we’ve got a fire company with $300,000 in their bank account?” Seeley continued. “If that’s needed, then maybe there should be some kind of a plan that we all know about (for) why we’re accumulating that kind of cash.”

Drake and Merrill countered by saying that future expenses are often an unknown variable, and that Seeley’s hypothetical amount of $300,000 is hardly an egregious amount when it comes to fire engines.

“How much do you think one of these fire trucks are?” asked Drake.

When Seeley asked if they are going to need a new truck, Drake responded that “down the road, you never know.”

Seeley insisted on hearing an amount that the fire company needs to reach in its bank accounts.

“The total amount of money is $169,000 before this year,” said Seeley. “Where does that have to go to?”

Drake simply answered that it’s an unknown.

“We can’t tell you what’s going to happen out here,” said Drake.

Merrill noted that the fire company’s main fire engine, which was ordered over the course of 2008 and 2009 and received in 2010, has “over $350,000” in it “as it sits there right now.”

“If you were to replace that truck today with a new one,” Merrill continued, “I’m just guessing here — we haven’t priced one out — but I’ll bet you’re pushing $450,000.”

Seeley also reiterated his belief that a new and updated contract should be created between the township and the fire company, since they are currently still operating on the original contract from 1992.

“I think it’s time we have a new contract,” said Seeley. “If you read the old one that I gave you, I’d say it’s a little bit outdated.”

Seeley specifically pointed out line nine of the 1992 contract, which states that the fire company “agrees to provide the township with monthly and annual reports including the nature and number of all calls responded to.”

In previous meetings Seeley had implied a concern that those reports were not being provided to the township, but on Monday supervisor Fred Tiffany noted that that information was also included in the report from Merrill.

Merrill suggested that the supervisors arrange a meeting with the officers of the fire company to discuss a new contract that would meet the needs of all parties involved.

“We’re not trying to hide anything,” Merrill said. “We just need to know what we have to provide, and I was of the opinion for the last 30 years that we were doing that.”

Anyone interested in sitting in on the Litchfield Township Volunteer Fire Company’s monthly meetings may do so. They meet at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month in the Litchfield fire hall.

Erik Berggren can be reached at eberggren@morning-times.com or (570) 888-9643 ext. 231.

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