East Penn Press

Monday, October 23, 2017

MACUNGIE BOROUGH COUNCIL

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 by kevin jones Special to The Press in Local News

Public weighs in on Macungie Fire Department

The Aug. 8 meeting of the Macungie Borough Council took place in the Macungie Institute and focused primarily on the Macungie Volunteer Fire Department.

Attorney James F. Kratz, who spoke on behalf of the fire department, said he agreed with some aspects of the report on the fire department, but not everything it said. Part of the claim of alleged fraud had to do with Fireman’s Relief Fund money improperly used for insurance premiums.

Kratz explained the fire department is working with the auditor general’s office to lower the amount of funds improperly used. The fire department plans to pay back the remaining funds to the Fireman’s Relief Association. Kratz also said the fire department and the Fireman’s Relief Association have started keeping minutes of their meetings.

There was a discussion about flushing fire hydrants regularly as there had been previous issues with fire hydrants not functioning properly. The idea of having previous firefighters return in order to assist with the current training issues was also brought up. Kratz discussed joint training with the Alburtis Fire Department and talked with Lehigh Valley Health Network about having physicals for members of the department.

Ben Spencer, an ex-Macungie firefighter spoke about his name being on a list of department firefighters as part of a training document given to borough council. Along with Spencer, the list included six other firefighters who were no longer a part of the fire department. Spencer was convinced this was done purposefully.

“My name and six others were put on that list who were a part of the department for a significant amount of time. This was not an oversight or a mistake,” Spencer said.

Area business owner Tim Romig talked about getting training certificates through a right-to-know request. Romig was able to look at a training roster from Fire Chief Michael Natysyn and compared it to the certificates he had acquired.

Romig discovered there were nine firefighters who claimed to have more training than they actually had. There were eight firefighters who didn’t have any certificates, but claimed to have multiple certifications. He also found two members on the list did not have any training.

Romig pointed out Chief Natysyn claimed to have every training listed on the form while Romig did not have the certificates.

Romig felt the fire department leadership needs a complete overhaul in order to restore trust. He explained that with new leadership other firefighters will come back to restore the fire department.

Past Macungie Fire Chief Tim Schantzenbach was part of the committee organized by borough council to investigate the fire department. Schantzenbach said the condition of the fire department at this time is not the fault of a single person.

He believed it was not an accident but was done on purpose, referring to it as a total complete breakdown. Schantzenbach explained three people signed a specific training document even though they knew seven people on the roster were no longer with the fire department. The fire chief was [allegedly] able to deceive Council President Chris Becker into signing the form by bringing it up during an important budget meeting.

Schantzenbach said there is a statewide trend for municipalities to take control of the local fire departments. Council made a motion, approved unanimously, to hold any fire department funds until the department follows up on suggestions made by Becker.

Council accepted the resignation of borough Police Officer Michael Marshall. Marshall was a part-time officer for the borough and is moving on because he found full-time work elsewhere.

Council also discussed the approval of the Streetscape contract with the Marino Corporation. Borough Solicitor Patrick Armstrong mentioned there was a slight chance the grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would become unavailable and the borough would have to fund the project. Despite the solicitor’s concern, the contract was approved unanimously.

Council then went into an executive session lasting 20 minutes regarding personnel issues. There was no action taken during the executive session.

Macungie Borough Council will hold its next meeting Aug. 21. Council typically holds its meetings 7:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of the month in Macungie Borough Hall.