EBENSBURG, Pa. – The requested funding for two new emergency response trucks sparked the most discussion during Monday morning’s series of budget hearings by Cambria County Commissioners.
The budgets proposed by the coordinator of the emergency management agency, Art Martynuska, included $ 25,000 for the first year of renting a new truck that will be equipped with a high-expansion foam generator offered by the city of Johnstown.
At the end of the five-year lease, the county would take ownership of the truck, Martynuska said.
The second proposed purchase was $ 160,000 for a new truck fitted with hazardous materials response equipment.
The new truck is needed to replace the county’s existing 30-year-old hazardous materials truck, Martynuska said.
During the hearing, County Comptroller Ed Cernic Jr. asked why the city fire department was getting rid of foam spray equipment. Martynuska said the city has another use for the truck the system is mounted on.
The system can fill a room in minutes to put out certain types of fires, Martynuska said. If the foam system is not filled, the system acts like a giant fan and can be used to quickly ventilate buildings following a fire or in the event of a gas leak.
“If we didn’t have it, what would we do?” asked President-Commissioner Thomas Chernisky.
“We should bring in one from another county,” Martynuska said.
Contacted by The Tribune-Democrat after Monday’s hearing, Johnstown Fire Chief Robert Statler said the foam system needed repair and was therefore removed from the city’s truck chassis.
“It was an asset used by the county,” Statler said. “It would be more accessible for other areas of the county (in Ebensburg).”
With the Johnstown system out of service, the closest units are in Greensburg and Latrobe, Statler said.
“It’s something that is needed, but my budget is tight,” Statler said. “I didn’t have the money to make repairs.
Commissioner William “BJ” Smith said adding two trucks in a year could stress the budget.
The county did without the foam system but has had a hazardous materials truck for 30 years, Smith said.
The county’s current hazardous materials truck goes into service about six to 12 times a year, Martynuska said. It is used for fuel spills and other hazardous material situations.
When asked what local firefighters would do without a county-based hazardous materials transport truck, Martynuska said, “They would call a private contractor or another county.”
Funding for the foam truck was left in Martynuska’s budget, but funding for the hazardous material truck was cut after officials decided it could be purchased from the county general fund, if needed.
Chernisky said budget hearings are primarily information-gathering sessions as the county’s spending plan is developed.
“It’s not over today,” he said. “We’re going to review everything. We haven’t ruled out anything at all.”
Further talks will include Martynuska, he added.
After the hearing, Cernic said he had concerns about the two vehicle purchases.
“I know there might be a little need for these trucks,” Cernic said. “If they’re only used six to twelve times a year, I don’t think that’s a good use of county funds.
“A truck is 30 years old and has only 20,000 miles to go.”
Martnyuska’s budget hearing was the longest of the day, covering three separate budgets: the emergency management offices and county 911, as well as two special funds: the Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Act and the Special Hazard Assistance Intervention Program, or SPARK.
Monday’s hearings also included the Tax Assessment Office, Elections and Voter Registration Office, Geographic Information System Office as well as the Conservation District and Prothonotary, Register of Wills and Offices. controllers.
Hearings are expected to continue until Thursday. Tuesday’s hearings include county courts, the tax claims office, the court clerk and the deed recorder.