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Hand in Hand, Hope Hose fire companies look to merge | News, Sports, Jobs


CHASE BOTTORF/THE EXPRESS
Hand in Hand Hose Fire Company’s station is pictured along Henderson Street.

LOCK HAVEN — Hand in Hand and Hope Hose fire companies in Lock Haven are taking steps to merge into one company.

On Monday night, Lock Haven City Council approved seeking assistance by the Department of Community and Economic Development in the merger process.

City Planner Abbey Roberts — who filled in for City Manager Gregory Wilson — said the city would send a letter of intent to DCED.

“DCED has a program that helps regionalize fire and emergency services,” Roberts said. “This basically lets them know what we’d like to do and find the best path forward.”

Fire Chief Robert Neff told The Express the merger has nothing to do with how either company stands financially.

CHASE BOTTORF/THE EXPRESS
Hope Hose Company is pictured along Church Street. The two fire companies are taking steps to merge into one company.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with money as far as the two companies are concerned. Neither company is in any financial distress,” Neff said.

Instead, the consolidation is a way to help the city meet a need, while also benefiting the two companies.

“The two (companies) got together and saw that the city may have a need where the Hope Hose Company is,” he said.

The need regards the city’s on-going discussions about the state of its aging City Hall facility. Earlier in the year, council approved to look further into the potential renovation of Hope Hose with the possibility of it housing both the fire company and the Lock Haven City Police Department.

The other reason involved the continuing trend nationwide in volunteers, he said. Neff noted that both companies are in good standing with volunteers at the moment.

“We felt it was in the best interest for the two of us and the city, the community and the fire department as a whole if we combined to one fire station and allowed the city to have that Hope Hose fire station to do with as they please,” he said.

Neff told council the merger is not a “hostile takeover” from either department.

“The two of us want to work together to make this merger work. No one that attends any of our meetings on a regular basis has had any opposition,” Neff said. “We took it to the membership first. We are bound to do what’s best.”

Neff noted that Hope Hose has been around for 141 years while Hand in Hand has existed for 135 years.

“By participating in this merger, we hope that they’ll exist in excess of another 130 years for the betterment of everyone,” he said. “That is the whole purpose of the merger, it is for the betterment of the community.”

Neff said reducing the number of fire stations from three to two can also provide another benefit for the city’s budget.

“Instead of three fire stations to heat and pay electric, they’re going to have two,” he said. “It puts more manpower at two fire stations than spreading them out between three. We saw this as a win for everyone and a negative to no one.”

Neff said the two companies have been working through the potential merger process so far with no issues.

“The Handies and the Hopes truly believe this is going to be a betterment for everyone,” he said.

Council unanimously approved sending the letter of intent to DCED.

In other emergency services business, council heard from Lock Haven Emergency Medical Services Chief Gerard Banfill regarding a donation request.

Banfill told council Lock Haven EMS is facing a huge spike in fuel costs in 2023.

“I’ve never seen numbers like this in the past,” Banfill said.

According to Banfill’s numbers, EMS is expected to pay an estimated $42,000 in fuel in 2023 — of that number, roughly 61.6 percent is generated by taking calls within the city limits. According to Banfill that number is around $25,000 on just fuel.

Banfill also provided numbers for the calendar year from Nov. 20, 2021 to Nov. 20, 2022. In that time, Lock Haven EMS responded to 1,696 calls. Forty eight percent of that were within city limits, coming and included 400 transfers out of UPMC Lock Haven Hospital.

Banfill asked the city to consider including Lock Haven EMS in its upcoming 2023 budgeted donations. He noted he’s made similar requests to other municipalities that the emergency services company serves.

Councilmember Doug Byerly said he spoke with Banfill earlier about the issues the company is facing and was in full support.

“Everybody knows that EMS does an absolutely fantastic job. They’re a well run organization. Although I know the budget is tight, I think we should take a fairly hard look at giving them a substantial donation,” Byerly said.

Mayor Joel Long suggested Lock Haven EMS be included in the city’s list of potential entities up for donations in 2023.

“It should be part of that bigger picture,” he said.

Councilmember Barb Masorti was in agreement.

“I think that’s the way to handle it. Put it with the library, historical society and the other handful of organizations that have made requests,” she said.

Council unanimously moved to place Lock Have EMS on its list of potential donation recipients to be discussed as the budget process continues.

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