Josh Smith

Siri Hedreen / The Outlook

Camp Hill Volunteer Fire Department president Josh Smith discusses a new services contract with the town at a Camp Hill council meeting Friday.

The Camp Hill Volunteer Fire Department is reorganizing its relationship with Camp Hill to become a paid service rather than a department of the town, ensuring an end to the conflicting bylaws that resulted in turmoil earlier this year.

Mayor Messiah Williams-Cole and fire department president Josh Smith explained the terms of the draft contract to the Camp Hill town council at a special called meeting Friday, which redefines the Camp Hill Volunteer Fire Department as a "non-profit organization supporting the public interest."

Under the proposed contract, Camp Hill will pay the fire department a $700 monthly stipend in lieu of its modest fire chief salary. The town will also continue to provide the building, utilities and vehicle insurance and will extend phone and internet services from the adjacent Camp Hill Town Hall.

According to Smith, the fire department may have to start charging for some of its services, currently free, to cover the cost of new equipment down the line.

"Whatever (the billing agency) recommends in our area that insurance companies are most likely to pay for is where we're going to set those figures," Smith said, adding those billing charges would be proposed to the council before being finalized.

The temperature in the room was markedly different from three months ago as Williams-Cole thanked the fire department for their "continued service in this unforeseen time" and praised Smith for his support.

"Josh has truly been a blessing when it comes to clearly communicating the wants, needs and what it takes to be a successful fire department," he said.

The need for restructuring first became apparent in February, when Williams-Cole requested a list of documents then-Fire Chief David Berry had refused to furnish, on the grounds that the Camp Hill Volunteer Fire Department was an independent non-profit organization. Williams-Cole contested that claim, which he said conflicted with the town's ordinances and Berry's inclusion on its payroll.

After a two-month stalemate during which the town fired Berry and changed the locks on the fire department building, the two parties eventually came to terms in April with the understanding their conflicting legal set-ups would have to be amended.

On Friday, Smith the fire department was working with a lawyer to amend their bylaws which town attorney Charles Gillenwaters said were "too intertwined" with the town.

Smith also pledged transparency with citizens including contact information and the disclosure of their rank and file, a stark contrast from the confusion earlier this year over who spoke for the fire department — the volunteer president or the appointed fire chief.

Recommended for you