Union Township supervisors approve loan to pay fire company

Supervisors here will take out a loan to pay off more than $43,000 owed to the Citizen’s Hook and Ladder fire company after it successfully sued the township to recover unpaid contributions over three years.

In front of more than two dozen residents Monday, the Board of Supervisors voted to accept the outstanding debt, and the officials said they will close on the loan later this month. The amount of debt is $43,624, which will include interest.

The supervisors, led by Chairman Ryland Brower, indicated they will not raise taxes to cover the outstanding difference.

“I don’t really want to,” Brower said to fellow supervisors Warren Kibe and James Taylor. “Do you guys want to?”

“No,” Kibe and Taylor said.

“OK, then we won’t,” Brower said.

The supervisors’ brief discussion came after they were peppered with questions from residents about township finances and the fire company dispute during a sometimes tense public comment period.

Some questioned how the township would pay for the lawsuit. Others brought up the township’s decision last month to purchase a $9,300 tractor to cut grass on the township’s building grounds. Brower said that mower replaced one that was broken and could not be replaced.

One man said he considered split-rail fencing and a well on the township building property the result of “frivolous spending.”

The vote to accept the debt and move toward a loan starts to close the book on the long-running legal dispute that began when the township did not pay the contribution rate in accordance with Boggs Township, Milesburg and Unionville officials.

Union Township contributed the equivalent of a mill in real estate taxes, while the other municipalities contributed more.

County Judge Pamela A. Ruest sided with the fire company in the lawsuit, and a state court upheld her decision after the township appealed.

Ruest will have the sides in her courtroom at 4 p.m. Tuesday to hear the township lawyer’s request for additional time to pay the $43,624.

The full cost of the lawsuit approaches $50,000, as the township has paid their special counsel for the lawsuit, William Tressler, more than $5,600. The township will also indirectly pay some of the $2,200 in fees for the fire company’s lawyer, David Engle, as the township is one of the four municipalities that fund it.