Jefferson Hills Council no longer legally recognizes the Gill Hall Volunteer Fire Company
Gill Hall Volunteer Fire Company is no longer legally recognized as a fire department in Jefferson Hills.
The council passed an ordinance on May 9 solidifying the decertification of the nearly 74-year-old, 20-member department that has been inactive for several years.
The effect of the order is something that the majority of council have sought to achieve for some time.
Multiple attempts to put Gill Hall back on the borough allocation and renew services failed, with only Councilor Keith Reynolds and Councilor Nicole Ruscitto voting in favor of Gill Hall.
Other board members wanted the independent society to merge with Jefferson Hills Fire Rescue, which itself is an operational merger of the Jefferson 885 and Floreffe volunteer societies.
Fire company officials said they were still finalizing the full merger.
Board chair Melissa Steffey said Gill Hall executives had repeatedly turned down many opportunities to join JHFR.
Previous legislation had decertified Gill Hall on a temporary basis.
“The order was necessary because we were waiting to see if GHVFC would want to merge with JHFR and form a department as we have been discussing for the past few years,” Steffey said. “GHVFC’s final decision was to remain independent; therefore, it was necessary to finalize the current order and change the ‘temporary’ to ‘permanent’.
“Our residents and some members of this council no longer have the luxury of trying to understand or mediate a 20+ year old discussion/battle between the fire departments that serve Jefferson Hills. We are experiencing exponential growth here and it is time to move on, let JHFR continue to do what they do well and look for other viable options near the Gill Hall area that will only help support our amazing first responders when needed.
Steffey said having an official service in the borough also sets a service standard.
“Our community deserves a cohesive, professional and well-staffed organization that constantly trains and works well together within a set of standard operating procedures,” she said. “That’s what JHFR provides.
“GHVFC has been invited to join them and continue to serve our community together. They have chosen to go their own way and I wish them well.
Council Vice-Chairman Hilary Budd echoed Steffey’s comments and noted that no decision had been made regarding a new JHFR station in the Gill Hall area.
“The Borough is blessed with excellent service and capable leadership from JHFR,” Budd said. “A location to expand their services is in its infancy and many other options will be explored.”
Reynolds castigates his colleagues
Reynolds called the proposed merger with Gill Hall a “hostile takeover”, and that board has been playing political games with Gill Hall from the start.
“I’m embarrassed to be on a board that would encourage an organization’s failure and applaud its misfortune,” Reynolds said. “How do I feel about everything JHFR receives? KISS – keep it simple and silly. If they have to lie to get it, they don’t deserve to have it.
“Residents have been lied to from day one. They are the ones who suffered from a decrease and a lack of coverage. They are also the ones responsible for paying the bills for the extra expenses this has caused and will cause.
“The only way for me to see this problem solved is for someone at the county or state level to step in to look at the lies, vested interests, political favors and corruption behind this. It’s hard to believe that public safety could be played with this and no one seems to care.
Gill Hall had a short-lived partnership with Pittsburgh Safety & Health EMS to provide non-emergency transportation from the fire station.
Executives at Reynolds and Gill Hall said that effort was snuffed out within months also due to political pressure.
Jefferson Hills’ primary emergency ambulance service is provided by the Southeast Regional EMS. There is mutual aid from Baldwin EMS.
Gill Hall Vice Chairman Brian Hutson said the board’s recent actions did nothing to change the situation of the past few months. Its vehicles have already been removed from borough insurance and its firefighters removed from workers’ compensation.
“It really didn’t change anything,” he said. “Ordinance is politics. It’s just that some people try to establish a narrative. We haven’t received any relief (fire) money for over a year. Six months ago we didn’t have insurance coverage and we still don’t have it.
“There was never any question of amalgamation. It was a hostile takeover. We were going to sign papers which said that we would be ready to work with (JHFR), but we wanted to remain independent, and that would not have changed anything.
The Tribune-Review filed a right-to-know request on May 13 for a copy of the order, along with a resolution setting out the terms of the contribution with JHFR.
Borough Clerk Erika Horvat said Tuesday afternoon that she was being reviewed by attorney Deron Gabriel.
Steffey said the resolution is to identify shift crew payments at JHFR as an hourly rate, and no other contributions will come from taxpayers, such as payment for Social Security, Medicare and others. advantages.
“It’s the responsibility of the fire department, itself, not to cover the borough,” Steffey said.
A call to Jefferson Hills Fire Rescue management was not immediately returned.