Eagle Fire Co. blames E. Manchester for funding problems

Eagle Fire Co. in Mount Wolf is blaming East Manchester Township's supervisors for its funding problems.

Fire Chief Jake Bush said Wednesday, Nov. 7, that $70,000 of approved funds expected to be donated to the fire company have not yet been released.

Eagle Fire Company in Mount Wolf Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

“If we don't get any funding this year, we won’t make it to the end of next,” he said.

The fire company, which covers Mount Wolf and the eastern half of East Manchester Township, was expected to receive half of the funds in the first quarter of the year and the other half in the last quarter of the year, Bush said.

But the chief said Wednesday none of that money has come in, and the fire company is struggling.

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Funding: Bush said the fire company experienced a significant theft of funds in the spring, a theft that remains under investigation.

Because of that, he said, the township's supervisors have opted to withhold the funds until the investigation concludes.

Minutes from the supervisors' August meeting show that Chairman Steven H. Gross Jr. mentioned that funds would be withheld until issues with the fire company have been discussed.

Eagle Fire Company in Mount Wolf Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

The chief noted that the money is something the fire company receives yearly as a donation for the services, and the township is not under an obligation to provide the money.

Additionally, he added that should the township not release the money by the end of the year, the funds will go into the township's budget for next year and there's no guarantee the company will receive it.

Bush said East Manchester gave the fire company about $19,000 in relief money, and Mount Wolf contributed $10,000 so far this year. But that isn't enough, he said.

The chief said the company is behind on paying a truck payment. He said he asked multiple times for just enough money for the payment, $23,000, but hasn't had any luck.

“In any organization, if you don't have funds to do anything, it makes it harder to keep the doors open,” he said. 

Bush said the fire company has had to rely on fundraising to make up the difference. 

Theft: In a news release Wednesday, the company said the amount of money taken could not be released, but it was a "significant" amount. 

Northeastern Regional Police Chief Bryan Rizzo said the department is investigating a theft of cash taken from the fire company's fundraising event on Mother's Day.

"It appears to be several thousand dollars," he said, adding that the department did not know exactly how much was taken. 

Rizzo said the theft was reported a few weeks after the event. On Wednesday he said the investigation is nearing completion, but no arrests have been made.

Problems: Bush said the board has issues with the fire company, but he added that the department has been undergoing many changes, including a new chief. Bush said he's been chief for a few months. 

"We've done nothing but improve," he said.

The fire chief said situations like these, where the township withholds money for the fire company, happen about every year. There are different reasons, he said, adding that the township makes the fire company go "above and beyond" to get funding.

"We can't have these games anymore," Bush said, adding the majority of their calls this year have been for East Manchester Township.

Reached Wednesday morning, township supervisor Dave Gentzler declined to comment on the situation. He encouraged a reporter to come to the next township meeting to ask questions.

A message left for Gross, the board chairman, was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Vice chairman David Naylor did not answer a listed phone number for him, and his voicemail was full.

Supervisor Barry Rudisill did not answer his listed number when called Wednesday, and his voice mailbox had not been set up yet.

Bush said the all-volunteer fire company has about 20 active members. Despite the lack of funding, the fire chief said the fire company will still respond to calls as normal.

"We still are doing normal operations, but it's making it harder to make certain decisions on purchases and bills ... without knowing if the funding is going to be there," he said. 

The township's next meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the township office at 5080 N. Sherman St.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.