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Snyder Twp. board chairman Charlie Diehl discusses land acquisition, the Bald Eagle Vol. Fire Company and taxes

Charlie Diehl, 79, is winding down his third term on the Snyder Township Board of Supervisors. He serves as chairman of the board and also has sat on the Northern Blair County Regional Sewer Authority board for the past 11 years.
Diehl is a retired auto mechanic from his own business, Diehl’s Garage & Auto Body, by which his son, Chuck now runs in Decker Hollow. He is married to Catherine Kobuck Diehl, who is also retired.
Throughout his 13 years serving Snyder Township, there’s not much Diehl hasn’t seen or has been a part of. He has one more year yet to serve, and he may seek re-election for another six-year term.
A recreation area and ball park has been something that Diehl and his fellow supervisors, Bob Nelson and Jim Burket, have been wanting to see built for some time. The township has been seeking land to build such a location, even asking Tyrone Borough to sell a 75-acre plot of land that the borough owns in Snyder along Van Scoyoc Hollow Road at a “fair market value.”
Borough council opted to not sell that land to the township back in February due to being landlocked and the potential worth of the property, but Diehl said that a new piece of property may have become available for purchase. He didn’t say where the land was located, or who owned it.
“The decision will be by the board as to whether we take it or not,” said Diehl. “The property owners would like to keep the mineral rights, which I myself have no problems with – we do need land for a park and ball fields.”
Diehl noted that the township was hoping to acquire the land from Tyrone Borough, and didn’t think that the borough’s reasons for not selling were adequate. Two former Snyder employees, Bob Ayers and Viola Dysart, gave the borough an 80 signature petition from local residents saying that the area would create traffic and safety concerns if a park was built there.
“That land’s being used for nothing right now and it’s a taxable property,” explained Diehl. “It’ll never be worth a bunch of money, because first of all there’s no sewer hook-up, and there’s a bunch of wetlands out there.”
Despite the borough’s decision, he says that the township is set on getting a park and ball fields in the works before he leaves the board – whenever that may be.
The Bald Eagle Volunteer Fire Company has been a topic discussed at length over some time in Snyder Township. The fire company was accused of mishandling funds that were taxpayer monies. It was reported in news sources that the company was vindicated from any wrong doing, but Diehl said that wasn’t the case at all.
“We need to make people accountable when there’s tax money involved,” stated Diehl. “The way the Bald Eagle Fire Company was being operated was a situation I could see happening all over again like the Citizens Fire Company in Tyrone.”
He added, “We need the Bald Eagle Fire Company and we have supported it big time. The Citizen’s is no longer there because of misuse of funds – it has to be run like a business.”
Diehl explained that there has to be documents for all money that is coming in and going out of the fire hall.
“I feel that the recommendations made by the accountant of documenting everything is the way,” said Diehl. “If they do that, then I have no problems with it – we need the Bald Eagle Fire Company.”
The state of Pennsylvania recently passed an Act asking for better communications between volunteer fire companies and municipalities, and Diehl said that the township has been asking for the same thing.
“We asked for a record of finances, and by law we have to have that when we dispense tax money,” said Diehl. “We’d be maybe six months getting it after the fact, when we were suppose to be getting it by November so we can do our budget.”
Diehl noted another incident when the township, under its ordinance, asked the fire company for a list of active firefighters, but instead received a list of people who “were definitely not firefighters.”
“None of this is personal, and we do support them,” stated Diehl. “Back years ago when they went to the ultra high frequency radios, they came to us and said they needed $6,000 to upgrade – and we gave it to them.”
He continued, “It wasn’t budgeted; they already got what was budgeted by then. It’s a community fire company made up of volunteers, so we supported them.”
Diehl said that even though it was said that the fire company did nothing wrong, they did do something wrong with its money. He compared it to a situation occurring if he paid himself as a supervisor to repair the township’s equipment and trucks, stating, “they would of hanged me.”
“If you can’t get volunteers, job it out to an independent contractor,” said Diehl. “Not somebody that’s involved. Not the chief and so on and so forth – that’s not the way you do it.”
He added, “The checks made out for bingo start money were made out to cash. They should never have a check made out to cash; it should be made out to somebody, and designate what it’s for. It was $1,000 a week.”
Diehl said that if the fire company documents all of its revenue such as memberships, donations and whatever else, then invoice it and duplicate it, then the company should have no problems knowing where the money comes from when making a deposit.
“They’re suppose to have a report for us by November 1 for what their projected expenditures are next year and what they did with it this year,” noted Diehl. “I’m hoping that they will implement what the accountant recommended to get things going the way they should.”
Diehl has his friends and his enemies within the township, but one thing that can’t go unnoticed is the fact that Snyder has never had a tax increase while he and his other supervisors sat on the board. He attributes that to “getting the most for your money.”
“Our roads are in better shape than they ever been,” said Diehl. “We have an excellent staff at the township all the way through.”
He continued, “You can trust that our employees are going to do their job. They actually like coming into work in the morning.”
Recently, Diehl and some volunteers painted all of the guard rails in the township, which saved taxpayers a significant amount of money, instead of paying township employees to do the work.
“I’m retired,” noted Diehl. “I’m not in it for the money. What we get per meeting is $35, and that doesn’t even buy my gasoline.”
Diehl doesn’t take the credit for not having to raise taxes in Snyder, because it’s just not his mentality to do so. He believes that a small municipality doesn’t have to raise taxes, then it can also be accomplished on the larger scale of government.
He attributes Snyder’s success to all three supervisors and their dedication to the township.
“I’m a firm believer that two heads are better than one, and three heads are better than two,” said Diehl.
He continued, “I listen to the majority of the people, and if I don’t question things and if I don’t listen to the people, then I don’t belong in that chair. We have people in Washington and Harrisburg who are not listening to the people, and that’s why our country’s in bad shape.”
Snyder Township does have a tax increase proposal as a referendum on the upcoming November ballot. The residents will decide whether or not they will accept a three mill tax increase for fire protection. The township has three mills already for fire protection, but the board is asking the people to enact an additional three mills so that the township can put the other three mills back into the general fund.
Fire protection money can only be used for fire protection. Bald Eagle Fire Company gets most of three mills currently, which is estimated around $30,000.
Diehl said that the township’s costs have been and are going out of sight. Road salt is projected to be nearly $100 a ton this year, so the township feels it can’t continue without bringing that money back into the general fund.
“If the people okay the three mill tax for fire protection, that’ll give us six mills for fire protection between Tyrone and us,” said Diehl. “The people have to approve it, so we’re not raising taxes, but if it happens, the people are raising them.”
He added, “To me, that’s the only way to raise taxes. The people should make that decision.”
Diehl doesn’t look at himself as a “politician,” but as an “elected official.” He does his job for the people, and the supervisors are elected to promote the health, safety and welfare of all the residents.
He said he’s always tried to do what’s right for the majority of the people. Although he says he has made some mistakes, he thinks that “a person who doesn’t make mistakes doesn’t do anything, but if you learn from that mistake, you’re a better person.”
“People live in Snyder Township because they want a little privacy,” said Diehl. “They want a rural community, and that’s what we have – and I would like to see it remain that way.”
Diehl wants to see more positivity in Snyder Township, particularly at board meetings. He said that he wants the meetings packed full of residents every time, but he would also like to see those residents have something good to say for the betterment of the township.
“You can please some of the people all the time, all the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time – it never happens,” noted Diehl. “There has to be negative stuff, like criticism, but why not come up with an idea for what’s better for the township.”
His words define who he is. He’s stepped on toes, some people might say they hate his guts, but there’s also some who think he’s doing a good job.
“I’m a firm believer that you can be old at 40 or young at 70,” said Diehl who may seek re-election next year. “I’m a firm believer that the cup is not half empty, it’s half full – I’m an optimist.”