KULPMONT — The East End Fire Co. is in jeopardy of foreclosure and its captain warns that the terms of a loan agreement for the newly opened social hall could endanger emergency services.
Matt Siko says company firefighters were shocked to learn that the truck room and some equipment inside was used as collateral for a $674,800 loan taken in 2010 to build a brand new social hall next door.
Firefighters were under the impression that the board would use nothing related to the fire service as collateral. When a third party recently told them differently, the company’s board members were confronted.
According to Siko, board members said the East End is behind on the loan in excess of $20,000, and that warnings had already been received about defaulting. Should a single $3,200 payment be missed, he said the foreclosure process will begin.
“Really what they did as a whole, it just goes against every value we have as firefighters,” Siko said. “There was a lot of shock. It took a while to wrap our heads around it, to be honest.”
The East End’s engine is borough-owned and a majority of the firefighting equipment belongs to the Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association, Siko says, and all of that is safe.
At risk is the truck room itself, constructed in 1991, along with the Emergency Squad apparatus used on medical calls and a utility vehicle. Also, future purchases could be at risk, and Siko fears the potential impact the loan could have on grant applications.
Should the East End default, the loan agreement states that the government can take immediate possession of the collateral. That would leave the engine and the 25 active firefighters that operate it without a station.
The 5,000-square-foot social hall and banquet facility at Chestnut and Eighth streets opened in spring 2012 and was built for $830,900 in combined U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities loans and grants. A breezeway connects it to the truck room, which was built in 1991.
The East End and West End fire companies make up the Kulpmont Fire Department. The department’s fundraising drive is about to begin, with money split between the companies. Siko stresses that all funds for the East End will be used solely for fire service and not for anything related to its social hall.
“At no time will any money be filtered to any bar. That is exclusively for the purpose of fire suppression and for the operation of the fire department,” Siko said.
Siko says the company’s firefighters will work to protect the East End’s fire service assets.
An official letter about the situation was shared last week with borough leaders, although there was no talk of it at the borough council’s monthly meeting. He hopes to meet with the loan lender and representatives of the USDA together to discuss the situation. He also hopes for accountability from the company’s board.
“The message we want relayed loud and clear to the community is that if we were to lose our assets, even the squad and the utility and our equipment, that can be detrimental to the community,” Siko said.
Attempts to reach a company board member were unsuccessful Sunday.
Siko said the East End recently received a state grant to paint the truck room. He doesn’t want people to think the fire service is spending unwisely in light of the loan situation.