Liberty trustee pledges to revisit merger study, will likely be voted down
By Sarah Lehr
Township Trustee Jodi Stoyak has pledged to revisit a study on a joint fire district with the city of Girard, though she will likely be voted down by her fellow trustees.
More than 100 people from the township and Girard attended a contentious joint meeting last week at the township administration building. Of those who spoke, most strongly objected to exploring a merger of the two fire departments.
A vote on commissioning a study into the merger had been on the agenda for last Wednesday’s meeting. After members of the public offered input, however, Trustee Chairman Stanley Nudell stated that trustees would forgo the study.
Stoyak has since said, however, she believes trustees should have the chance to vote on the study. She plans to place the issue on the agenda at the next regular township meeting April 10.
She said she believed the crowd was not representative of the population as a whole.
“It was not a well-run meeting,” she said. “If the firefighters want to make decisions for the township, they should run for public office. I feel an obligation as a leader of the community to think about the long-term.”
She added that she would be willing to explore a merger with another nearby community if Girard is unwilling.
Officials have not yet determined who will complete the study or what the exact cost would be. They had hoped to utilize up to $50,000 available via a state grant for local governments looking into shared services.
Stoyak’s motion will likely fail, as the two other trustees, Nudell and Jason Rubin, have indicated they will vote against the study. Rubin said he doesn’t personally oppose a study, but that he feels it’s a fruitless pursuit because his impression is that Girard leaders are not on board.
“We’re not saying we want a merger or we don’t,” Rubin said. “It’s just a study to look into what’s going on.”
Though the vote on whether to pursue a study with Liberty ultimately lies with the seven members of Girard City Council, Girard Mayor James Melfi said he would favor a study, so long as it doesn’t cost city money. The mayor said he does not yet have the information necessary to determine whether he supports creating a joint fire district.
Girard Council members Lily Martuccio and John Moliterno similarly said they support a joint study, but do not yet have opinions on the merger itself.
Martuccio said she viewed the large crowd last week as a positive indication.
“People are passionate and they should be,” she said.
Justin Graham, president of Liberty chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters union, said Girard and Liberty firefighters plan to attend the upcoming meeting.
“The firefighters’ view hasn’t changed,” he said. “Why fix something that isn’t broken?”
He added, “I think Mrs. Stoyak has shown that she isn’t listening to residents. Those residents made it loud and clear at that meeting that they aren’t interested.”