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Wyomissing and Spring Township end joint fire services agreement

An agreement for joint fire services between Wyomissing and Spring Township is coming to an end, and Wyomissing has hired its own fire chief, according to officials.

The agreement, put in place in 2015, provided a joint fire chief and fire marshal and allowed the sharing of procedures, equipment and training as well as cross coverage of both municipalities, according to the borough’s website.

Under the agreement, Wyomissing paid the township $150,000 for administrative and operational aid.

Spring’s Fire Chief Colin Hackman and Fire Marshal Troy Hatt served both municipalities.

“Spring Township wasn’t able to provide some of the promised services; they have an awful lot on their plate,” Wyomissing Mayor Fred Levering said. “It’s a shame. We’re still going to be working cooperatively with Spring, but we’re going back to doing it on our own.”

He said Spring officials told the borough that the agreement would be ending by late June.

“It gave us some time to make some arrangements,” Levering said. “It’s just that, administratively, we’re going to be on our own.”

Township officials said there simply isn’t enough personnel to manage both municipalities.

“With the commercial growth of both the borough and the township, the workload was just becoming too significant,” Township Manager John Groller said. “Our fire chief … was basically managing two departments.”

He said Spring’s two full-time and one part-time fire inspectors were nearing their capacity just managing Wyomissing’s workload.

“For two and a half people, 300 (inspections annually) just in the borough is hard to handle,” Groller said. “Throw in the businesses of Spring Township and it’s impossible to keep up with. There’s no other reason other than that. We don’t have enough manpower.”

Groller said the township supervisors voted unanimously to end the agreement by June 30.

The Wyomissing Fire Department appointed a new fire chief, promoting Capt. Ethan Holmes.

Holmes was hired by the borough in 2007 and promoted to captain in 2014.

His appointment to fire chief was approved unanimously by borough council. He has been chief since March 18.

Fire chief Ethan Holmes is pinned with an official badge at a ceremony March 18 at the Wyomissing Fire Department. (Courtesy of Wyomissing Borough)
New Wyomissing Fire Chief Ethan Holmes is pinned with a badge at a ceremony March 18 at the Wyomissing Fire Department. (Courtesy of Wyomissing Borough)

Levering noted that under the agreement, the two municipalities ran fire calls jointly.

“Whenever their siren went off, ours went off as well and vice versa,” Levering said.

Fire service to the communities is not expected to be diminished, according to officials from both municipalities.

“I want to stress that we’re going to continue to have a strong relationship and help each other in fighting fires,” Levering said. “I’m absolutely confident we’ll be providing seamless services. The average borough resident will not notice anything happened.”

Groller noted that county mutual aid agreements mean both departments would continue to run calls together.

“That level of service isn’t going to change,” Groller said.

Levering said differences between the municipalities made the joint services agreement complicated.

“Spring Township is enormous; there’s a lot of open space they’ve got to provide service for,” Levering said. “The borough is an entirely developed, more compact type of area.”

He noted borough and township officials were talking about continuing to allow the joint use of the township’s fire marshal.

“Obviously, we would help anybody out if we have the ability to help them out,” Groller said of Wyomissing’s request for inspection services. “But to say we’re under an agreement to provide so many piecemeal inspections is just not something we wanted to continue doing. They (Wyomissing) can always reach out to us. We know it’s going to take them time to get a fire marshal hired and trained. It was just time for us to focus on our 16 employees and our population here.”

It’s uncertain whether there will be further changes in fire services relations between the municipalities, Levering said.

“It worked well,” he said. “I’m disappointed that it hasn’t gone any further. We’ll see what happens in the future, whether we reestablish something with them or stay on our own.”

He noted many fire companies are having to consolidate to save on costs.

“We see a lack of volunteers with so many aspects of our lives these days, people are too busy with too many things, and as a result, there’s just no volunteers” Levering said. “Doing it jointly is a way to control expenses.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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