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It’s official: Walker back as MH fire chief

MILL HALL — Tony Walker has been officially re-elected as the new fire chief of Mill Hall Fire Co.

Walker’s appointment was clarified at the Bald Eagle Township supervisors meeting this week.

After concerns came up at June’s supervisors’ meeting regarding issues with Mill Hall Fire Co., Walker presented himself at this week’s meeting to clear up any confusion, as well as to give and update on the company’s activities.

“I am officially the recently re-elected fire chief for Mill Hall. I know the fire company missed the last couple of meetings and no one was here,” he told the supervisors before offering the monthly fire report for July.

Supervisor Chairman Clarence “Tuff” Rine provided a clarification from last month’s meeting about Walker’s reinstatement as a concern due to legal reasons.

At issue is the township supervisors’ concerns over a lack of proper training of firefighters and proof of that training — as required in a written contract.

Walker assured the board the volunteer fire company has and is addressing the issues.

“It was brought up that Mill Hall (Fire Co.) was not abiding by the agreement” with the township, Rine said.

“You send them a letter and then they send the correspondences back. It is the same stuff they gave us last year, which I am not happy with. We had two members of the Mill Hall Fire Co. personally drop off their certificates here and we have copies of those. But there is nothing showing whether they got that education last week, last year or last century,” Rine added. “They may have answered us due to the legal reading but they knew what we wanted. We only got two certificates personally and they were not from the fire company.”

Rine subsequently made a motion to investigate having another fire company to partner with before the township initiates a new contract with Mill Hall Fire Co. in October.

However, the motion met with some confusion, prompting Rine to offer another.

“I will make a motion before our next contract with Mill Hall Fire Co. that we check with a couple of other fire companies in the area and see how they stand with training,” Rine offered.

Supervisor Kenneth McGhee brought up that Walker isn’t alone in representing the fire company.

Walker noted that fire company officers did not and do not negotiate contracts, but instead company trustees do.

Any new contract would be up to trustees and only a couple of them have changed, he said.

Supervisor Steve Taselli asked Rine to restate his motion to clear up any confusion.

“I am not making the motion to leave Mill Hall Fire Co.,” Rine assured.

“The motion is for us to proceed to open lines of communication with other fire providers. We already had Flemington come here and offer to talk to us,” he added.

Taselli questioned if Rine’s motion to talk to other fire companies was strictly because of the training issue.

“Number one, I want to see if maybe Mill Hall is the top of the heap (for training). I would think if they were at the top of the heap, we would have a whole office full of certificates to look at. But we do not. I am just making the motion that we can initiate communication with other fire companies to see what is available,” Rine explained.

“What puzzles me is that we have a signed contract and they are not cooperating. So what is the idea with these contracts?” questioned McGhee.

“If you read what the contract says and read what they sent us — probably in front of a judge — what they give us meets what the contract says. The next contract … if I have anything to do with it is going to say we want to see updated certificates,” Rine emphasized.

Solicitor Frank Miceli agreed with Rine’s concerns for needing physical certificates for authenticity.

He believed that a physical form outweighs verbally stating one’s credentials.

The board then asked, as an example, how long a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) training certificate lasts before expiring.

Walker said that certification requires a yearly refresher after the initial course is taken.

There are state-sponsored training courses for which a person must register and attend.

They make copies of earned certificates and one is kept on file at the station.

Rine said that, for the fire company, 10 people are considered qualified for apparatus training and another 10 to 12 people have some form of training, such as HAZMAT.

Rine then asked for a second to his motion, but it died for a lack of a second.

McGhee suggested the board has another month to consider the motion and to speak with other fire companies.

Meanwhile, the township “is committed” to Mill Hall Fire Co., he said.

Rine said a new contract will brought up in October, but would not go into effect until 2022.

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