Could the problems between the Borough and the Waynesboro VFD be fixed if the two entities just sit down together and talk?

September 12 – The Waynesboro Volunteer Fire Department will cut ties with the Borough of Waynesboro as of December 29, 2023. 

The volunteer fire department is a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity in Pennsylvania that will still respond to borough fire alarms as mutual aid, but will be relocating their facility as well. 

In August, the borough of Waynesboro received notification from the PA Auditor General that the latest compliance audit for the Waynesboro Firemen’s Relief Association had found that the volunteer fire department had not been keeping an accurate equipment roster.

In response, the borough created an ordinance. 

In a statement from the volunteer fire department, “The decision by the Council of the Borough of Waynesboro to take unilateral actions to enact a career Fire Department Control Ordinance, did not consider the Volunteer Fire Department and its firefighters. The Borough has chosen to follow the operational and policy positions of the Borough of Waynesboro employed Fire Chief, which are detrimental to the Volunteer Fire Service and the charitable mission of the Volunteer Fire Department.”

As a result, the two entities are cutting ties. 

The Waynesboro Volunteer Fire Department has 344 members.

There is also a fire department in Waynesboro that is paid by the borough. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “We published the press release out of the volunteers. They wanted a little bit of radio time. I said, well, I usually have Jason Stains, borough manager, on he’s a regular guest on the radio station. I’d love to sit down with you guys all together at the table and try to hash this thing out. That was not of interest to them. They wanted their own particular airtime, but I put their press release up.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This is not a good situation and I can tell you around Waynesboro, this is the talk of the town. I mean, at soccer over the weekend, people were talking about it. At the Legion at lunch, people are talking about it. I’m not sure it’s clear to anyone what the problem is, other than the public knows it is a big problem. There’s clearly a rift that has developed between the borough government and this volunteer firemen association.”

The volunteer fire department has been in Waynesboro for more than 140 years. 

Barkdoll continued, “The volunteers, that organization has been in place for decades in Waynesboro and they’re kind of the backbone of the operation. These are really the guys and gals on the scene, first responders that are just so critical to the community’s safety. I think naturally and rightfully a lot of citizens are quite concerned when they see this rift has evolved to a point that the volunteers have felt that they needed to take this action to disaffiliate with the borough after December 31. For practical purposes, I’m not really sure what that means. I only know what I’ve read in those press releases. I don’t have any other insights on us. What I have routinely heard from citizens is the leadership needs to figure this out. These people need to try to get into a room together, work this out for the betterment of the community and for whatever reason that doesn’t seem to be happening. You don’t see any overtures from the borough or the volunteers. So my guess is there’s probably a lot more going on here that we don’t know. But anyway, you cut it, this is a problem for Waynesboro.”

Ryan pointed out, “One of the more level-headed people in my circle of friends is one attorney Clint Barkdoll and I can’t help but think that if we put a couple of people in the room here and Mr. Barkdoll, I’ll pay for billable hours up to a point here, but I’m certain that you’d work pro bono to find some sort of solution or maybe there’s someone out there that can find that. I’ve asked Jason and Jason said, yeah, I’m in. It doesn’t seem like the appetite’s on the other side. I may be wrong on both sides here. But we should do this. It’s September. Let’s get this done. It could be like the rescuing of a resignation. Maybe they’d rescind this separation here if we found the right people and the right dialogue.”

Barkdoll said, “I agree. I think it’s a great idea, a private mediation to try to hammer this out over the next few months. I think the community agrees these volunteers are incredibly valuable. The community cannot afford to alienate these volunteers and last week, someone even raised to me the concern about homeowners insurance rates increasing in the borough because there are these ratings agencies of sorts and when you lose protection like this, could an insurance underwriter start hiking insurance rates? That’s a concern, let alone just the public safety concerns. So I really hope that they can come together and figure this out and work it out. The clock is ticking. We’ve got a little over three months until this happens.”

“I bet we can get this done,” Ryan predicted.