Council, fire department fail to reach building lease compromise

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By Thomas Clapper
Malvern Village Council was visited by the Great Trail Fire District (GTFD) board at its April 3 meeting in what became a failed attempt, by both parties, to settle the North Station lease agreement.
Great Trail Fire District board members, including President Mike McCort and members Mike Hulit, Doug Wackerly and Alan Artzner, attended the meeting along with Fire Chief Ralph Castellucci, Assistant Chief Thomas Borton and firefighters.
“So why does the village want to cancel the lease?” asked McCort, who served as spokesman.
“One reason is we asked Chief Ralph Castellucci to use the building for our movie nights and other events and he said no,” said Council President Barb Burgess. “But mainly we need the space for equipment and the fire department has other buildings such as the Colfor building and the South Station.”
“The Colfor building isn’t close to being used for storage yet,” said McCort. “We use the North Station to store firefighter equipment, and we have an engine in there.”
“The building is structurally sound, but there is no heat, the inside has burn damage and there is debris and other stuff laying around,” clarified Chief Castellucci.

“I want to make it clear; we are not trying to get rid of the fire department,” said Burgess. “I have seen many rumors on Facebook and elsewhere that are not true. We only want our building back.”
“The idea has been after the two or three years when Colfor is done, we would give the building back to the village,” said McCort. Castellucci added the Colfor fire department project would be approximately a $2 million project.
Burgess then stated the chief and everyone knows the fire board owes $25 and it was not paid, which voids the lease agreement. This leads to the idea from the fire board that they were not invoiced, so therefore they weren’t obligated to pay.
“The school pays theirs every year and we do not invoice them,” said Councilman Craig DeLong.
Hulit spoke up and explained he has investigated the matter and the school hasn’t paid since 2021. Fiscal Officer Ashley Neading confirmed the statement.
“I did my homework on this because I was worried this could turn into something that could put the school in danger of losing a building or something,” said Hulit, who was assured by council the school has nothing to do with anything. “I needed to make sure this is only targeting the fire department.”
“We aren’t targeting anybody,” said Burgess. “We have a lot of equipment, and we have stuff sitting outside. We need that building.”
Village Administrator Derik Kaltenbaugh said a letter was sent to Castellucci six months ago explaining the village’s intent on relinquishing the building. Castellucci said he never received a letter.
“We are very sad to have read about this in the newspaper first,” said Firefighter Corey Clark.
“The fire board is not willing to part with the building until the Colfor station is done,” said McCort.
Mayor Bob DeLong ended the discussion. “This is going to keep going back and forth for an hour and we aren’t making any progress,” said DeLong. He then suggested three members of council and three members of the fire board meet and try to hash something out. McCort agreed that something could be set up at a later date but reiterated the fire board is not willing to part with the building.

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