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March 29, 2013

Chapmanville VFD preps to reopen

PLUM TOWNSHIP, Venango County — Almost five months after it was decertified by Plum Township Board of Supervisors, Chapmanville Volunteer Fire Department is preparing to restart by next week with new officers in place.

Chapmanville VFD, based in Plum Township, Venango County, was providing fire protection and emergency services for parts of Plum Township as well as parts of Troy Township in southeastern Crawford County.

Troy Township has been served by volunteer fire companies from Hydetown and Townville; and Plum has been served by the Venango County fire companies of Oakland, Cooperstown and Cherry Tree since the decertification order went into effect Nov. 7, 2012. It was decertified by township supervisors over financial concerns within the department. Supervisors requested all officers within Chapmanville VFD at the time resign and then decertified the department when not all did.

Chapmanville VFD’s former treasurer, Kimberly Keener, 41, of Titusville, was arrested March 18 by Pennsylvania State Police on theft charges. She is awaiting trial in Venango County Court of Common Pleas.

Glen Williams, chairman of the Plum Township board of supervisors, said Thursday the department could be back by the middle of next week.

“We’re in the process of working on it,” Williams said. “Tuesday is our meeting and if they’re ready, we’ll certify them.”

If Plum Township supervisors vote to certify the department Tuesday night, Chapmanville VFD will hold a special meeting immediately after the supervisors meeting, according to Roger Sterling, the fire department’s new president. The 911 emergency dispatch centers in Venango and Crawford counties then would be notified the department was in operation.

“We’re in the process of getting some of our gear back,” Sterling said Thursday, noting some of the former firefighters still have radios and other equipment in their possession. If the equipment isn’t turned over, Sterling said the department would take legal action against those individuals.

The department’s fire trucks have remained at the station and the insurance has been paid by the Chapmanville VFD Auxiliary, a separate organization. Heating bills for the building have been paid by Plum Township.

Sterling had praise for Plum Township’s supervisors.

“They’ve given us about $6,000,” Sterling said. “If not for them, we’d not be doing this.”

Sterling acknowledged the department will face tough financial times while it gets back on its feet.

“We have no money right now. We’re broke,” he said. “We’ll be doing a lot of fundraising.”

Pennsylvania State Police have accused Kimberly Keener of misappropriating thousands of dollars while she was treasurer for the Chapmanville VFD, dispersing funds to herself and her mother.

She is charged with one count each of theft by unlawful taking and theft by deception. On Wednesday, Keener waived her right to a preliminary hearing on the charges before Magisterial District Judge Andrew Fish and was bound over to the next term of Venango County Court of Common Pleas.

Keener, who became the department’s treasurer in February 2010, has an unaccounted loss of at least $25,614.96 since she began keeping the department’s books, according to state police.

Aided by the Department of the Auditor General Office of Special Investigations, police accuse Keener of writing checks payable to herself for $3,490 and her mother for $17,326.66.

Police also allege Keener misappropriated at least $7,600 from the Chapmanville Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association by writing checks payable to her mother for $5,600 and to the fire department for $2,000.

Keener remains free on $15,000 bond.

You can help: Persons interested in becoming a volunteer with Chapmanville Volunteer Fire Department may submit an application Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the fire hall on Route 27.

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