Paxtang Borough outsources fire services, after months of deliberation and disagreement

The move was fueled by a shortage of volunteers at the Paxtang Fire Department, a volunteer fire department, according to Borough Manager Keldeen Stambaugh.

PAXTANG, Pa. – Paxtang Borough is relocating its fire services to Swatara Parish starting August 1.

The decision follows 18 months of deliberation and disagreement.

The move was fueled by a shortage of volunteers at the Paxtang Fire Department, a volunteer fire department, according to Borough Manager Keldeen Stambaugh.

Like many fire departments across the country, Paxtang is having trouble recruiting volunteer firefighters. The department now has six active firefighters, according to Captain Matthew Lemmon.

However, he said that number was more than enough to cover the district, which is less than half a square mile in area. According to Lemmon, most of the 350 calls the departments answer each year come from outside the county.

The district considered bids from both Swatara Township and Harrisburg City for fire department coverage. Both bids were for $25,000 per year, but Harrisburg’s bid would last through 2024 and Swatara’s bid through 2028.

Additionally, county officials noted that Harrisburg had previously offered three years of free service, but that offer was withdrawn after a new mayor took office that year.

Some were unhappy with the Swatara decision. Paxtang resident Rebecca Frankenfield, who is listed as an officer of Paxtang Fire, organized an online petition urging the county to select the Harrisburg Fire Department. The petition gathered 120 signatures from 1,650 residents in the district.

The Paxtang Fire Department also expressed disappointment.

“We prefer Harrisburg because we’ve spoken to them as a company about how we can essentially board and continue operating our station,” Lemmon said.

Lemmon is concerned that communications with Swatara Township are off to a bad start. He said the community is barring his fire department from duty calls and posted on Facebook his frustration that Paxtang was not called to a brush fire Wednesday, just blocks from their station.

“Our resources are not needed no matter how close we are,” Lemmon said.

Ward Superintendent Stambaugh said the Ward has a good working relationship with the Swatara community as it has already contracted its police services and that the Ward’s Public Safety Committee recommended becoming involved with Swatara.

It’s unclear what will happen to Paxtang’s current firefighters and equipment.

Swatara Township did not respond to a request for comment, but they posted on Facebook that they “look forward to adding members of the Paxtang Fire Company.”

Lemmon said the low morale among his firefighters made it unlikely anyone would sign up for the Swatara Fire Department.

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https://www.fox43.com/article/news/local/paxtang-outsources-fire-services-deliberation-disagreement/521-239eb47b-191c-49ff-b013-67acfe745850 Paxtang Borough outsources fire services, after months of deliberation and disagreement

Alley Einstein

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