Dispute Over Housing of Colwyn (DE) Fire Apparatus Resolved

A dispute over the housing of an unused fire truck in the borough hall garage has apparently been resolved after a nearly week-long political standoff.

The Colwyn Borough Volunteer Fire Co.’s 1984 Hahn pumper truck has been housed in the borough hall’s garage since the fire company’s inception in 2009, the same year the truck was purchased. A structural engineer inspected the garage on June 19 and said the reinforced concrete floor couldn’t support the weight of the fire truck.

“It is determined that the maximum load capacity of the concrete garage floor slab is a 10-ton vehicle,” wrote Zeyn B. Uzman, an engineer with Catania Engineering Associates Inc. of Ridley Township, the borough’s contracted engineering firm.

“It has been determined that the floor is not structurally adequate to safely support the fire truck. The truck should be removed immediately,” Uzman wrote in his June 29 report.

The borough’s garage sits above a basement where fire company members would hang out before they took up residence across Spruce Street at the former Colwyn Fire Co. No. 1 building.

After receiving the report, Borough Manager Paula Brown said she discussed the matter with Mayor Michael Blue. Brown said Blue told her to have the truck removed immediately.

Brown claims that several requests were made to both council President Patricia Williams and fire company President Betty Cellini to have the truck removed, but they refused. Brown said she then had no choice but to post signs alerting the public to the potential danger posed by the truck’s presence in borough hall, saying residents would have to “Enter at Their Own Risk.”

According to multiple sources familiar with the issue, part of the reason the old fire company built its own structure at the opposite corner of Third and Spruce Streets was because of the issue with the concrete floor in borough hall. As fire equipment grew larger over the years, the building became unsuitable to be the fire company’s home.

Councilwoman Tonette Pray said the building is fine and is strong enough to hold the truck, and that the issue was prompted by Brown’s desire for control of the borough. She said she was aware of the claims made by the old fire company that the floor wasn’t strong enough, so the borough had an engineer perform an inspection in August 2012 and followed up with a significant repair project in the basement.

The borough purchased the 1984 Hahn in 2009, and last year a Delaware County judge ruled that the defunct fire company would have to transfer all of its property, including two newer trucks, to the new fire company. One of the trucks is a 2007 Pierce pumper purchased with a $100,000 loan by Colwyn Fire Co. No. 1 that year.

There are still about $50,000 in payments due on the truck, which the borough is responsible to pay after the court ruling. Also transferred by the court ruling was a 1989 E-One pumper, which is operational. A command SUV purchased by the fire company is also out of service for maintenance, according to the fire reports.

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