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Funding, Construction Issues Plague Firehouse Project

Hatboro officials are trying to catch up on paperwork and compliance issues required to attain a $500,000 state grant for Enterprise Fire Company's building expansion.

Without compliance on a handful of state-mandated guidelines, Hatboro stands to lose a $500,000 grant awarded for the .

While Hatboro Borough Manager Steven Plaugher said the nearly $1 million project is “very close” to reaching completion, borough officials said Monday night that they do not know how quickly the state’s reimbursement will occur, if at all. 

The sticking points, all of the council seemed to agree on, revolved around the contractor, Titanium Inc.’s inability to complete its portion of the state paperwork; to meet prevailing wage guidelines required for state-funded construction; and to comply with the use of specific steel in the building’s elevator.

Until the borough gets word that Mark Gill of Titanium successfully completed the paperwork, the governing body said it would not release the previously approved payment of $126,891.27.

“We would be in a worse position if we were to release that check,” borough solicitor Christen Pionzio said.

Once the money is released, the council agreed Monday to withhold 10 percent of that amount, as well as 10 percent of the following and purportedly last payment, until borough officials determine that the work is, in fact, complete.

In addition, Council President John Zygmont directed Plaugher to provide a weekly update on missing documentation.

During Monday night’s informal workshop between the council and borough staff, frustrations were obvious over the project, which began in March 2011 and was .

“We’ve been told November, December, January, February, March, April, May - What are the holdups here? Is it the contractor?” Zygmont asked. “We’re withholding payment because we didn’t get paperwork that we needed.”

And, as Councilman Robert Hegele pointed out, the paperwork has been needed since before the project began. Hegele, who joined the council in January, read from several letters dated back as far as 2010, which referenced some of the items still needed today.

It’s been “common knowledge” that there have been “all kinds of problems” with the project, Hegele said.

“At some point why wasn’t the project stopped? We didn’t have documentation. The state didn’t have documentation,” Hegele said. “Why wasn’t legal action taken?”

Zygmont and Councilman Bill Tompkins, two of four current council members who were on the council last year, said that the prior borough solicitor had said that halting construction would not have been in Hatboro’s best interest.

“It’s been slow, torturously slow,” Tompkins said.

The good news, Plaugher said, is that once the state-required documentation is completed, the borough should still be able to receive its $500,000 reimbursement. Plaugher said an official in Harrisburg told him, “The money’s here. It’s been approved.”

Until then, Hatboro’s general capital fund was used to cover the $500,000 of the state’s share, Tompkins said. 

From the fire department’s perspective, the newly expanded is nearly finished. With the exception of the elevator and the generator, Enterprise President Chris Gowen said the “brunt of the work” has concluded. 

“There’s not much for them left to do,” Gowen said.

Plaugher said he’ll continue to touch base “multiple times a week” with Gill to ensure that he complies with the paperwork and remaining requirements. 

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