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Firefighters Settlement: Both Sides Win, Attorney Says

Attorney James Kratz, who represents the Macungie Fire Department in a legal dispute with the Macungie Fire Company, says that a recent settlement in their longstanding battle benefits both groups.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo
By Jack Tobias

The two factions of Macungie firefighting have settled their longstanding dispute, and an attorney involved in forging the settlement says it benefits both sides.

The firefighting arm known as the Macungie Fire Department now owns the firehouse, says attorney James Kratz, who represents the fire department.

And the financially strapped fire company, which runs the social club inside part of the firehouse, is "wholly intact," said Kratz. 

The fire department, in a legal action against the fire company, had sought to dissolve the company, whose existence goes back to 1907. But the settlement now makes that unnecessary.

In addition to ownership of the firehouse transferring to the fire department, Kratz said that as part of the settlement:
  • The fire company will continue to run the social club and retain its liquor license. 
  • The fire company will pay the fire department a monthly rent of $1,000 under a 29-year lease agreement. Kratz called the rent "significantly discounted" and "a very favorable deal."
  • The fire company won't have to pay back the approximately $17,000 the fire department spent on insurance, utility bills and maintenance. The company had asked the department to pay the bills and get the work done.
The settlement was reached Jan. 17, according to Kratz, who announced it at Monday night's borough council meeting. Kratz is with the Bethlehem-area law firm of Stevens & Lee.

A Patch story posted Monday—before the meeting—had detailed last year's court actions brought by the Macungie Fire Department. The first sought $16,967.05 for the insurance, utility bills and maintenance work. The second sought to have the fire company dissolved, saying among other things that the fire company was insolvent and "misapplies and wastes its assets."

The fire company's attorney, James Heidecker of the Karoly Law Firm in Allentown, did not respond to a phone call or email in time for this posting.

Kratz said the court actions were triggered by an incident in August 2012, when a social club member threatened to evict the fire department from the firehouse. At that point, Kratz said, the fire department was worried about losing its home and realized it needed to protect the firehouse, where it housed its equipment.

"They needed to have a home," Kratz said of the department.

In the action seeking the fire company's dissolution, the fire department alleged that the company, because of its "lack of oversight," allowed the "misappropriation of about $25,000." The allegation said the company "chose not to pursue recovery from the person who misappropriated the monies."

When asked, Kratz said that the court accepted the allegation as fact. He points to an Oct. 24, 2013 order signed by Judge J. Brian Johnson of county court's civil division. The order, among other things, says the allegation about the $25,000 is "unconditionally established." 

Kratz declined further comment on that matter but pointed to the court order as an example of the fire company being "uncooperative through the entire process." He said the fire department never wanted to dissolve the company, but it also believed that "if they fight it, we would dissolve."

The court order, issued in the first place because of the company's refusal to produce documents as part of the discovery process, also prevented the company from later introducing evidence to defend the attempt to dissolve it.

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