HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Phoenix Volunteer Fire Department in Hollidaysburg is getting a state grant for new equipment, but not everyone is happy with this decision.
The decision was made on Thursday, Sept. 14 during a Borough Council meeting. The backlash is coming from the Hollidaysburg watchdog group. The Assistant Fire Chief, Eric Schmitt, said the funding is necessary, but watchdog President Richard Latker said that the department shouldn’t get the money without opening its books.
The request comes after Phoenix Volunteer Fire Department’s former chief pleaded guilty to using over $55,000 from a grant for his own use back in 2021.
Latker says the watchdog group will sue the department once they get the money.
“More than $500,000 in municipal funds to the PFD remains entirely unaccounted for until at least 2021 when the organization was controlled by convicted embezzlers,” Latker said.
“For volunteer organizations such as ourselves to obtain funding to purchase a new apparatus, we have to explore all alternative funding sources such as grants,” Schmitt said. “I’m astonished that an organization, who says that they are for the betterment of the community, would threaten a lawsuit against a volunteer fire department to obtain equipment to serve this community.”
The council members said the department doesn’t need to open its books because that chief is no longer with the company and the new equipment is essential.