West Pottsgrove Ends Coverage by West End Fire Co.

WEST POTTSGROVE PA – A decades-long relationship between West End Fire Company No. 1 and West Pottsgrove Township officially ended Wednesday (Aug. 18, 2021) night.

The township Board of Commissioners, during its workshop meeting, unanimously voted to immediately discontinue relying on the fire company and its volunteer membership for fire, emergency, and accident responses within West Pottsgrove’s borders. Instead, it authorized signing a service contract with the adjacent Pottstown Borough Fire Department.

Manager Scott Hutt, in a media release distributed Thursday (Aug. 19), said Pottstown department units have acted as “the primary (responder) on mutual aid for all calls” since November 2020. Since then, it stated, Pottstown’s “professionalism and reliability have been on full display, giving the Board of Commissioners faith that the township is adequately covered for fire service protection.”

Pottstown Mercury reporter and Digital Notebook author Evan Brandt, who attended the board meeting, cited Hutt in writing that an 18-month agreement between the borough and township, created during November but on which the township did not act until Wednesday, “will cost West Pottsgrove taxpayers between $135,000 and $140,000.” That’s about the same amount the township pays for West End’s services, Hutt added.

The arrangement took effect Thursday, when West End will “no longer be authorized to respond to fire calls in the township,” according to Brandt’s article. The fire company also provides protection services to Douglass (Berks) Township; it is so far unknown how, if at all, that will be affected.

Dissolving the relationship, as West Pottsgrove referred to its action, was said to follow “much consideration to the circumstances that continue to plague West End.” Hutt cited:

  • “Instability at leadership positions;”
  • The company’s “financial distress;”
  • “Legal matters” that include investigations by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office;
  • “Building maintenance neglect;” and
  • “Questions concerning response times” (that) have been under scrutiny.

Few of the allegations made by commissioners, and voiced by Hutt on their behalf, are new. They were the subject of a lengthy and occasionally bitter June 22 public hearing called by the board. After hours of comment from its members, Hutt, volunteer firefighters, and their supporters, commissioners suggested they and a fire company steering committee meet separately to work things out and resolve problems.

The board reportedly indicated Wednesday it was still interested in working with committee members to help them get a handle on company finances. However, because commissioners believe West End “is no longer a viable option to ensure the safety of our residents at this time,” the release said, they considered it their “duty” to make other arrangements that “provide fire protection services” to township residents.

“We appreciate the residents’ support during this time, as we solidify fire protection with the assistance of Pottstown Borough,” the release concluded.

That wasn’t the only fire-company related news delivered at the meeting, according to Brandt:

  • Hutt disclosed the Attorney General’s probe was expanded to include all fire company finances;
  • Fire company Treasurer Kathleen Scully said she is resigning due to her displeasure with its leadership; and
  • Commissioner Mark Green reported the fire company’s building insurance will be dropped by its carrier due to “high risk and the high number of claims.”

Photo by The Posts from its archive