POTTS GROVE — After being de-certified by East Chillisquaque Township supervisors in February 2022 from providing services in the township, the Potts Grove Fire Company may soon be responding to emergency calls again — just not in the township where the fire company is based.
Turbot Township Supervisor Chair Keith Houtz confirmed his board of supervisors this week approved entering into a mutual aide agreement with the Potts Grove Fire Company, to allow the Potts Grove department to assist in responding to calls in the Turbot Township Fire Department's coverage area.
Eric Satteson, president of the Potts Grove Fire Company, said his department's membership will vote on that agreement during a meeting scheduled for Monday evening.
In February 2022, Milton Borough Council approved entering into an agreement with the East Chillisquaque Township supervisors for the Milton Fire Department to be the primary responding fire agency in that township.
That vote was made after the township supervisors voted to de-certify the Potts Grove department from providing emergency services in the township.
The township, at that time, provided a copy of a Jan. 3, 2022, letter Supervisor Tom Fisher sent to the Potts Grove Fire Company requesting copies of numerous documents.
The supervisors requested: All required certifications for each tactical officer position, based on 2012 department by-laws and current state and federal requirements; supporting documents that incoming tactical officers meet the requirements for their positions; Pennsylvania State Police background checks, as well as child abuse background checks, for all responders; all member names, for workman’s compensation insurance; a copy of the 2012 department by-laws; a copy of the department’s operating guidelines; and a current Pennsylvania Department of Health Quick Response license.
Fisher, later in February 2022, said the Potts Grove department provided the requested documents, with the exception of the background checks and officer certifications.
At that time, Fisher indicated the township entered into the agreement with Milton in order to give the Potts Grove department time to get its by-laws in order, as well as for the responders in need of certifications to attain those.
After the Potts Grove department was de-certified by the East Chillisquaque Township supervisors, Houtz said his board contacted the state fire commissioner's office. He said that office confirmed Potts Grove is still an active fire department, able to respond to calls.
"They told us we had to confirm (Potts Grove) had their own insurance," Houtz said. "We confirmed all three policies they have."
Although the department has not been responding to emergency calls, Satteson said its insurance has been maintained.
"We're ready to go," he said. "We have maintained all of our insurances. We actually went out and purchased our own workers comp insurance... (East Chillisquaque) township was providing that before."
He noted that Potts Grove has four pieces of apparatus — an engine, tanker, brush truck and special unit — that have been sitting idle for one year.
"We're still working," Satteson said. "We've got all the requirements (East Chillisquaque Township) wanted us to get, as far as trainings.
"That's been sent by our attorney to their attorney," he continued. "We will sit down and have a discussion with them."
Robert Deluge Jr., an attorney representing the East Chillisquaque Township supervisors, said the supervisors have not yet made a final decision regarding the status of the Potts Grove department in the township. However, he stressed the department's suspension from responding to emergencies in the township remains in place.
Earlier this year, he said the supervisors signed another one-year contract to continue having the Milton department cover emergencies in the township.
"Further action will be taken in the future," Deluge said, adding that he does not know when that may occur.
"The suspension (of the Potts Grove Fire Company) was put in place to protect the residents of the township," Deluge said.
According to Satteson, members of the Potts Grove department have still been able to conduct training activities, including joining in on some with neighboring departments. Fundraising activities have also been ongoing.
Although the Potts Grove department cannot currently respond to emergencies in East Chillisquaque Township, Houtz said it makes sense for Turbot to utilize the department's resources.
"They have some extremely nice equipment sitting there that's truly going to waste," Houtz said. "It makes sense to utilize it. They are as close to (some areas of) our township as we are... If something's burning, why not have an extra 3,000 gallons of water?"
As far as what emergencies the Potts Grove department would respond to in Turbot Township — if Potts Grove's membership approves the agreement — both Houtz and Satteson said that will be worked out by the chiefs in the two departments.
Houtz noted that he is an active volunteer with the Turbot Township fire department, and abstained from voting on the agreement. He said it was approved by Turbot's other two supervisors, Matt Koch and Ben Snyder.
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