RICE TWP. — The volunteers at the now-decertified Rice Township Volunteer Fire Department voted out their chief, Paul Eyerman, Wednesday, almost certainly removing chances of merging with Wright Township Volunteer Fire Department.
The Rice Township department was decertified Tuesday after two out of three township supervisors agreed too many problems continue to plague the department and put residents at risk. Wright Township was named primary first responder after the vote. Eyerman was seeking to merge the two departments.
Eyerman said he anticipated his replacement.
“When the decertification vote from the supervisors came in, their 2-to-1 vote indicated that Rice Fire Department had to look very hard at the future of the department,” Eyerman said. “My views of the future of the Rice Township Fire Department were not the same as the majority of the members (there) and I was replaced… I turned in my gear and said ‘OK guys, you do what you want to do with this.’”
The firefighters voted in former chief Kevin Tombasco, 34, who said he’s taking the position on an interim basis. He also volunteers for Valley Regional Fire Rescue in Drums.
“I was the only one with enough credentials to fill the position. As I told everybody else, I am just an acting chief right now,” Tombasco said.
Tombasco said while he’s in charge he hopes to continue making payments on a truck for which the department has a balance of about $280,000. He said he’s proposing a community cleanup day to get the garbage picked up around the station and cut the grass.
Tombasco said he’s looking to possibly form a board of directors; get covered with appropriate workers’ compensation and liability insurances, and recruit community volunteers to keep their finances in order. Though they might not be primary responders for their native township, the volunteers can help on other calls if they have proper insurance.
He said he thinks these things must be in place before they consider a merger with Wright and Dorrance townships, which has been the discussion for months.
Township supervisor George Venesky said Eyerman’s dismissal “speaks volumes of the dysfunction” in the department. He said he had warned Eyerman the department was problematic; however, the former volunteer returned anyway hoping to restore order.
“They got rid of Paul Eyerman, the only voice of sanity and normality over there and appointed Kevin Tombasco,” Venesky said. “We told him six months ago, ‘You have no idea what you’re getting into. You can’t fix it.’ ”