Berwyn Fire Company

Fire Funding Crisis for Berwyn, Paoli & Radnor Fire Companies. . . the ‘real’ story!

I am always appreciative when Community Matters readers send me local articles or links that I may have missed.  I received a great article today – the new edition of Main Line Today contains the article, ‘The Price of Rescue – Financial alarms have begun to sound at area fire and ambulance companies. What happens if the dollars dry up? (Can we afford to find out?).

The well-written article by Jim Waltzer highlights what many residents in Tredyffrin and other local municipalities have known for a while now, and what we have been hearing from our volunteer firefighters.  Our local fire companies are coming up against the money crunching of local township budgets and quickly facing a funding crisis within their organizations. Below are some of the highlights excerpted from of ‘The Price of Rescue’, click here for the complete article. Once again, on behalf of the Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies . . . please remember our volunteer firefighters (particularly during the holiday season) with a generous contribution. These men and women put their lives on the line every day for each of us!

“ . . . money is as critical as water to firefighting, an essential service built on a powerful volunteer tradition that, hereabouts, dates to Benjamin Franklin. And since cash flow is so uncertain in the current climate of economic tightening, fire companies are transmitting distress signals. A 5-percent reduction in Tredyffrin Township’s portion of fire-company funding triggered a strong response from the firefighting community late last year, though private contributions restored the shortfall. “[But] what happens next year—and the year after?” poses Matt Norris, chief of the Berwyn Fire Company, which fields about 2,000 ambulance and 1,000 fire calls a year.

Rip Tilden, the company’s president, believes the day is coming “when we won’t be able to fund emergency services in the ways we have.”

That day may not be circled on the calendar just yet, but the long-range trend isn’t promising. The growing public perception is that local governments fully fund fire companies, resulting in less-than-robust donations of late. Other culprits include the widening gap between ambulance billings and payment, greater demand for advanced life support, reduced insurance reimbursements, rising personnel costs, expanded training requirements, dwindling volunteerism, increased government regulation, and grant funding that’s been slashed. In short, revenue is flat—or reduced—in the face of rising costs and need for services.

Berwyn’s 13-year forecast spots trouble halfway through. “Based on what we know today, six to eight years out, we’ll be strapped financially,” says Tilden, who estimates that the company will break even this year per its operations budget of $1.4-$1.5 million.

Meanwhile, Berwyn’s capital expenditures have been significant this year. A peek behind the bay doors of the 100-year-old firehouse on Bridge Avenue just off Lancaster reveals $5 million worth of rolling stock that needs periodic replacement: A new $950,000 tower-ladder truck and a $100,000 ambulance will soon join the fleet, and the company continues to repay $300,000 in state loans for two fire trucks.

Construction of a new firehouse is a long-term capital project—one that will require a campaign to raise $7-$10 million. “We’ve done the architectural work,” says Tilden. “We’ll have to buy the real estate.”

The company applied much of its 2009 surplus of more than $300,000 toward the purchase of the two new vehicles. More than half the tab for the ladder truck was paid with Pennsylvania Relief Association funds. The rest is covered by additional state loans and a combined annual capital contribution of $140,000 from Tredyffrin and Easttown townships.

Tilden characterizes last year’s budget surplus as “not sustainable,” attributing the excess to belt-tightening in anticipation of the new vehicle purchases. Berwyn generates more than half its operating revenue from insurance payments for ambulance-related services, while the townships’ contributions account for about 20 percent and public fundraising 15 percent. The company receives $125,000 a year in rental fees from five mobile phone providers for the use of the tower on its property, and another $50,000 from grants and other rental income. Its principal expenses are salaries and benefits for paid personnel; other costs are associated with facility and vehicle maintenance, service delivery (e.g., disposable drugs), and day-to-day administration.

Nine full-time employees—including firefighter emergency medical technicians and paramedics—staff Berwyn, whose workforce is bolstered by 60 volunteers. In providing services, “there’s no line between paid staff and volunteers,” says Norris. . . .

Berwyn typically receives about a 20-percent response to its biannual fund drives, buttressed by a November turkey raffle (which raises about $10,000) and an April dinner at Berwyn United Methodist Church. Fundraisers and other efforts to plug budget gaps can place a burden on fire company personnel who may lack the aptitude. “[Firefighters] didn’t sign up to raise money,” says Norris.

In this economy, even small funding cuts seem ominous, which is why fire and EMS officials protested Tredyffrin’s 2010 budget, in which the township reduced its funding of its three fire companies—Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor—by about $20,000 combined. The 5-percent cut was part of a 15-percent budget reduction, says township supervisor Warren Kampf. A volunteer citizens board assisting the budget process had recommended deeper cuts for the three fire companies. Supervisors and residents subsequently raised more than enough money to make up the difference.

Tredyffrin has tripled its fire-company funding in the past six years, notes Kampf, who adds that “the future is going to include increased contributions” due to rising costs. “In the end,” he says, “fire protection is a critical part of living in our township.”

Tilden certainly shares that perspective. “Maintaining a high quality of [emergency] service has an impact on property values. If insurance company ratings [for a given locale] are high, homeowner’s insurance costs less,” he says. With the proliferation of smoke alarms and sprinkler systems, major fires in this day and age have decreased. But when one strikes, equipment and manpower must be tuned and trained. Every company has a timetable for replacing vehicles. “The average life of an ambulance is three years, because you want a decent trade and have to keep up on technology,” says Norris. And as safety regulations multiply, so do costs. Likewise, service delivery costs are rising, especially for EMS and stepped-up use of paramedics (to provide advanced life support), a trend that Tilden attributes to an aging population and a more cautious approach by county dispatch. Expanding ALS has a direct effect on the bottom line, as companies that offer the service in-house (e.g., Berwyn) must add staff, and those that contract for it absorb a substantial difference between their cost and reimbursement.

. . . So while they all fight fires, Berwyn and Malvern provide in-house basic life support and ALS, while Paoli, Radnor and East Whiteland offer BLS only, and Valley Forge fire only. Some townships—like Radnor and Lower Merion—pay most of the purchase cost of new vehicles, while others pay for a relatively small portion through capital allocations. So the percentages of the budget contributed by local and state government, EMS/ambulance revenue, and public donations may vary wildly. It’s a far cry from the notion that government pays for everything. . . .

. . . . The Paoli Fire Company has six full-time employees (four firefighter/EMTs, two administrative), six part-time paid staffers, and 45 volunteers who mostly fight fires and provide EMS. It makes about 2,000 calls a year and expects to break even in 2010, says business manager Dan Green. He anticipates a $10,000 increase in net income next year—one that may be more than offset by a projected 15-percent bump in medical insurance premiums and additional higher costs.

Beyond 2011, the outlook is murky. Though Paoli does take advantage of 2-percent state loans to buy new vehicles—and Chester County money at a rate that’s a few points higher to help finance site renovations—its funding is always in a state of flux. “We’re teetering on a delicate balance of these revenues,” says John DiBuonaventuro, a Paoli firefighter/EMT and a Tredyffrin Township supervisor.

“These revenues” come from ambulance/EMS reimbursements, local government funding (aside from Tredyffrin and Easttown, Paoli receives a smaller contribution from Willistown), the state’s insurance relief program, and public donations. The amounts and proportions vary year to year. DiBuonaventuro opposed Tredyffrin’s funding cut for Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor last year. “Few politicians have the perspective of responder or victim,” he says. “New residents think their taxes pay for these services.” If volunteer levels continue to fall, says DiBuonaventuro, taxes will pay for firefighting and EMS—additional taxes, that is. Meanwhile, Green emphasizes that the 25-percent response to Paoli’s annual fund drive keeps the company rolling.

Money to the rescue.
How to Help Even if you don’t like hot places and high vantage points, you can help your local fire company level the playing field. The simplest and most effective way is to respond to annual fund drives. This is not, after all, a direct-mail campaign pitching the latest rejuvenating skin cream. Toss the mailer aside now, and one day in the not-too-distant future, it may well come in the form of a fee —with a higher dollar figure. “People can also help by joining the fire company,” says Berwyn chief Matt Norris. While battling blazes and providing EMS require rigorous skills and stoutheartedness, almost all firehouses welcome additional help with administrative and fundraising tasks.

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Berwyn Fire Company’s Annual Halloween Parade – Saturday, October 30th – Public Invited!

You are Invited!

Berwyn Fire Company’s Annual Halloween Parade
When:  Saturday, October 30
Time:  7 – 8:30 PM
Where:  Parade starts at First & Bridge Ave. Berwyn and ends at the Berwyn Fire Company 

The Annual Halloween Parade in Berwyn is this Saturday and the community is invited!  Sponsored by the Devon-Berwyn Business Association, the Berwyn Fire Company is hosting their Annual Halloween Parade for the community. 

Please arrive by 6:45 PM so that the parade can begin at 7 PM.  Open to all ages there will be prizes for the scariest, funniest, and cutest costumes. Following the parade, light refreshments will be served at the fire station – and judging of costumes!

Thank you Berwyn Fire Company and Devon-Berwyn Business Association!

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Berwyn Fire Company Open House Tomorrow, Friday, October 15, 6:30 – 9 PM

Berwyn Fire Company Open House & Fire Prevention Night
Friday, October 15th

6:30-9:00 PM

The Berwyn firefighters are visiting local schools and businesses throughout the month in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of fire prevention and fire safety. 

Tomorrow night, Friday, October 15, the Berwyn Fire Company will open its doors for an Open House and Fire Prevention Event  from 6:30 – 9:00 PM. There will be live fire/rescue demonstrations, fire truck rides, and much more!  The volunteer firefighters encourage the residents to take time this month to practice your escape plan, test your smoke detectors, and check your home for fire hazards.

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Tredyffrin’s Public Finance Workshop Meeting . . . Notes from Two Residents

Yesterday’s financial workshop was the first step in 2011 township budget discussions. This was a public meeting and agenda for the meeting was as follows:

  • 2010 Review
  • 2010 year-to-date revenue/expense review and end-of-year projection
  •  Budget Advisory Working Group implementation update
  • Five-Year Capital Plan (2011 – 2015)
  • Public input about priorities for 2011 budget
  • Unfortunately I was unable to attend the meeting but I understand that it there was a successful open exchange of township financial information between the supervisors, staff and residents.  Knowing the importance of this finance workshop, I asked a couple of friends to provide notes/remarks/comments.  Because I did not attend the workshop, I do not feel comfortable combining the comments of the 2 individuals in to one document . . . therefore, I am providing both sets of comments from Resident #1 Notes and Resident #2.  I appreciate the effort these 2 individuals expended on writing these notes and thank them both!  This is important financial information and I hope that you will take the time to read their notes thoroughly.

    Resident #1 Notes:

    I attended the Financial Workshop held on Saturday at the Township building.  In attendance were all 7 Supervisors, the full complement of Township managers  (Mimi Gleason, Tim Klarich(the new Finance Director), Police Chief Chambers, Tom Scott, Steve Norcini, and Steve Burgo) and 25-30 citizens.  The Township provided a set of handouts, with substantial detail, that hopefully will be available on the Township website.  I’ll try to hit the high points, as the meeting lasted 2 1/2 hours. There were several main topics discussed:

    1.  2010 YTD review and end-of-year projection (Tim Klarich):  The General Fund is projected to finish the year with a small surplus.  On the revenue side, Real Estate and Transfer Taxes are right on target, while licenses and permits are well above budget (building and Aqua America projects).  Unfavorable to budget are the Local Service Tax ($52/worker) and Investment Earnings, which is much lower than had been budgeted ($16,700  projected vs. $131,000 budget).  On the expense side, the largest variance was employee benefits projected at $169,700 less than budget – several expense categories were $30-50,000 unfavorable to budget – specifically mentioned were supplies which were impacted by additional road salt of $60,000.  Mimi did comment that they had budgeted for a lean year and expense control was a priority.
         There was also a review of the Sewer Utility Fund and the Valley Creek Fund (my understanding is that this is the “regional sewer authority”, of which Tredyffrin is the steward).  Sewer fees are right on target, but again, Investment Earnings fell significantly short of budget.  There were large transfers between our Sewer Utility and Valley Creek, which, frankly, I did not fully grasp.  This created an unfavorable deficit for the Sewer Fund and a larger favorable surplus for Valley Creek.  Finally, the discussion revealed that the expenses for streetlights and traffic signals within the Sewer Fund is about $600k annually.
         As for reserves, the total of cash and investments are $50mm+, $17mm of which are unrestricted.  The breakdown of bonds issued is $21mm for the Township and an additional $7mm in Municipal Authorities (presumably Sewer?).
         JD raised the good point that municipal financial statements are difficult to follow and that more traditional corporate-style financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement) would be helpful in decision-making, especially for the Supervisors.  Sounded like Tim may work toward adding those type of reports.

    2.   BAWG update (Mimi Gleason):  A handout was provided listing all of the roughly 130 individual BAWG recommendations.   Next to each was listed its status – a large number of recommendations have been completed and it was noted when, some have been considered and will not be implemented, and a number (maybe 1/3 of the recommendations) which either have not been completed or will be considered in the future.  During this section, in response to a citizen’s question, Chief Chambers gave an update of his Department’s work this year and indicated that they have been able to maintain their service level  and the public’s safety very well, even in the face of the budget cuts and higher call volume.  While there was relatively little other discussion of individual recommendations, in my opinion, the thoroughness and scope of BAWG’s work and the progress made so far is impressive.

    3.  Five-Year Capital Plan (Mimi Gleason): The review of the twenty planned capital projects was divided by category – Economic Development, Infrastructure Upgrades, Quality of Life Improvements, and Property Upgrades.  The total cost of these projects is more than $102,000,000 – about $57mm in the next 5 years and the balance beyond 5 years.  These projects will be financed with a combination of capital reserves, bonds, Sewer Funds, and grants.
         By far, the biggest items are the Paoli Transportation Center ($40 million) and the Route 252 Bridge Replacement in Paoli ($25 million), followed by a new Paoli Library ($7mm), where the $1/year lease on the current building expires in 2016.  Of note, some of the sewer projects are included under the Economic Development category, as an expansion of the current system is required for redevelopment in some areas.
         Editorial comment:  At the meeting, I commented that the Paoli Transportation Center was not under the Quality of Life Improvement category, as I am not at all sure that it will improve, not diminish, the quality of life for Tredyffrin residents.  Further, understanding that the vast majority of the funding for some of these projects will come from state or federal grants, I urged the Supervisors to be equally vigilant in spending grant money, as at the end of the day, it does come from our federal and state taxes – evaluate these projects as if we are paying the entire bill.  I also questioned the Township tax revenue opportunity compared to the incremental Township costs for maintaining the infrastructure, police presence, etc. -understanding that this project is many years from completion, there wasn’t much clarity to the response.  As you might be able to tell, I’m not all that thrilled about the PTC – can’t wait for Paoli to be like 69th Street or Norristown.

    4.  Public input about priorities for 2011 budget: Open forum for public comment.  In response to a question about returning the fire funding to 2009 levels, JD and Bob Lamina updated on the joint T/E Emergency Services Board – it sounds like a positive step, they have had a presentation from Berwyn Fire and a Paoli presentation is scheduled – my impression was that the Township funding will be restored.  One citizen urged that the “Officer Friendly” program in the schools be restored.  Dariel Jamieson urged that the streetlight and traffic signals be removed from the Sewer Fund and be included in the 2011 Township budget.

    All in all, a very constructive session.  A great deal of information was offered, the citizens had opportunity to learn and ask questions, and there was none of the animus that has sometimes been present at BOS meetings.

    The following notes were provided by another resident who attended yesterday’s finance workshop.

    Resident #2 Notes:

    The meeting covered a lot of ground in 2 1/2 hours. All supervisors, Mimi Gleason, Tom Scott, Steve Burgo, Steve Norcini, and Chief Chambers were all in attendance.

    I. 2010 Year-to-date Review of revenues and expenses

    First on the agenda, new Finance Director Tim Klarich reviewed a 7-page summary of revenues and expenses up to 8/31/2010, with projections for the final months of the year.

    He reported that:

    •  The Township Is set to end the year with a projected operating surplus of $175,400.
    •  Real estate taxes collected as of 8/31/2010 are 98% of budget.
    • Transfer tax receipts are $200,000 ahead of last year’s but still about $500,000 unfavorable to budget so far.
    •  Large transfer tax collection to date is $177,000 with $211,000 projected by year-end. This total – $388,000 – has been budgeted to be transferred to the reserve fund at year-end.
    • Local services tax collections are projected to be $82,500 below budget. Why off?  Is the collections rate lower, or has the number of employees paying the LST dropped more than anticipated?
    • Spending for salaries, insurance, supplies and professional services went over budget this year.
    • Employee benefits were less than budgeted by $169,700- due to employee changes in plan options.

     
    Supervisors made comments and asked numerous questions:

    • Bob Lamina asked that more effort be made to keep supply and professional service  within budget in 2011
    • John Di Buonaventuro questioned the accuracy of a projected $395,000 surplus in the sewer fund revenue. Though the Township received a 1-time unexpected refund of $667,800, it has a projected operating deficit of $201,100.
    • Mimi explained that streetlight expenses are included in the sewer fund, including $140,000 for a new traffic light and $600,000 for maintenance of street lights.
    • Phil Donahue asked why salary expense was more than budgeted. Mimi explained the $38,500 difference was due to overtime for “unanticipated weather events”. FEMA has agreed to reimburse $85-90,000 for storm-related expenses but has not yet done so.
    • Phil also asked about real estate tax collections, projected to be $61,700 below budget. Mimi explained that current R.E. taxes were on budget but that past year taxes due and penalties were below budget.
    • Bob Lamina thought the $600,000 in transfer tax projected for the final quarter of 22010 was too optimistic.
    • Mimi commented that “we will not need to tap our reserve fund if we end the year as projected.
    • The year-end position: $17 million in unrestricted funds.
    • Investment returns were budgeted for $131,000 but are now forecast to be only $16,600. Why the big discrepancy?  The twp. kept its money in “safe, secure investments” that virtually earned nothing. However, the Township is restricted in how these funds can be invested.
    • Did the Township budget incorrectly? According to Tim Klarich, no one could have anticipated the drop in returns at the time the budget was prepared last year.

    II. BAWG Review – presented by Mimi Gleason

    The township has implemented more than half of the BAWG recommendations.

    • HR changes – personnel evaluations are being done though budget constraints prevent merit pay from being awarded.
    • The township has been more diligent in its  tax collections; it hired a consultant to look for businesses that are not in compliance re the LST.
    • There will be more efficient tax collections system by mid 2011. The Twp. Is still using an older system and needs to update software.
    • Bob Lamina suggested organizing a “purchasing summit” with area townships and school districts. Mimi replied that TT is already a member of several co-ops e.g. they buy salt at a discount.
    • The Twp. Is looking to combine service contracts with other municipalities; however, according to Steve Norcini, some areas like paving do not provide the same savings opportunities bc of timing differences
    • Coordinating purchasing with other entities will “take several years to fully get in place.”
    • TT belongs to a number of professional organizations and municipal groups; cost-sharing is discussed regularly.
    • Changes take more time bc of reduced staff and restricted overtime. Staff workload is high, and in some cases, extremely high.
    • Chief Chambers reported that there were 3000 more police calls in 2009 than in 2008;  from July 2009 to July 29, 2010 there has been an additional increase of 4,600 calls over the 12-month period before.
    • Budget cuts eliminated the  DARE and Officer Friendly programs; this allowed two more officers to be put on the street full time.
    • Police overtime is not entirely predictable. Chairman Lamina assured residents that there was no restriction on OT when needed by PD.
    • Property crimes and domestic disturbance calls up. In other areas, crimes are down over years past.

     
    III. Five-Year Capital Plan (Mimi Gleason)

    • An important consideration: How many projects can the Township handle and manage well given limited personnel.  The Twp. may need to hire consultants and/or contractors.
    • Projects  are categorized as 1) Providing economic development, 2) Infrastructure Upgrades, 3) Quality of Life Improvements, and 4)Property Upgrades
    • $4,606,355 is forecast to be spent on capital projects in 2010. (Only 1.3 million was spent in 2009).
    • $10,226,500 is scheduled for  capital projects in 2011 including:

    –         $437,500 for a feasibility study for widening of Rte 252, and design for reconstruction of the bridge in future years; to be funded by bonds and grants

    –         $505,000 for planning and design  for Paoli transportation center

    –         $1,500,000 to upgrade Wilson Rd sewer pump station

    –         $308,000 to increase capacity of sewer line in Berwyn area

    –         $4,200,000 for Sewer treatment plant upgrade

    –         $600,000 for 4 miles of road resurfacing in twp.

    –         $120,000  for street light upgrade to LED

    –         $100,000  for storm water management improvements at Trout Creek

    –         $150,000 for storm sewer replacements/drainage improvements

    –         $120,000  to replace lining of sewer pipes in Valley Creek and twp sewer system

    –         $2,000,000 for Tredyffrin Library renovations including new roof and HVAC

    –         $186,000  to complete HVAC controls and ductwork in TWP Building

    • Primary source of funding for capital projects:

    –         Capital Reserve Fund

    –         Bond funds

    –         Grants

    Supervisor DiBuonaventuro asked that township reporting change to reflect standard accounting practices i.e. provide monthly profit & loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement. Reporting for capital spending should show depreciation schedule, gain/loss on sale of asset etc.

    • Note: the lease of the Paoli Library expires in 2016. Plans for a new library are preliminary; $7,000,000 is budgeted from 2013 – 2015. A capital campaign will be organized to raise at least half of the funds.
    • Willistown will share in costs; currently they account for 22% of library usage.

    IV. Community comments

    • Mike Heaberg questioned planned spending for Paoli Redevelopment project.  JD noted that much of it would come from state and federal sources. Bob Lamina expressed  his view that the project would be a net gain for Paoli and the township.
    • Bill Schwarze asked why street lights and traffic lights are carried in the sewer fund and not the general fund. No one answered. In the past, it has been “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
    • Paving miles are not expensed from taxes; spending is equal to the liquid fuels reimbursement from the state  since those funds  have declined in recent years, fewer miles are being paved annually. However, Steve Norcini believes nothing essential has been put off. The Twp uses guidelines to decide where to pave: FHWA guidelines, the number of potholes a road has, and its traffic volume. Paving work is supervision- intensive and requires frequent inspections – seen as another limiting factor.
    • Radnor Fire Co, President Jim Kelly requested that the Twp. contribute $50,000 toward the purchase of an $875,000 ladder truck. Bob Lamina acknowledged that the Township had  never contributed to Radnor FD’s capital needs in the past but would  consider the request in preparing the 2011 budget..
    • Margaret VanNaerrson requested the reinstatement of the Officer Friendly program. Bob Lamina suggested that TESD would be asked to reimburse the Twp for any use of police time (estimated $20,000, according to Chambers).
    • Mike Heaberg urged the township to continue implementing the BAWG suggestions for more expense reductions. He suggested the need for a 5-year strategic plan.
    • Laurie Elliott asked that fire funding be restored at least to the 2009 levels.
    • Barbara Morose suggested that the fire companies be funded from direct private contributions; she reported she had personally increased hers and asked that others do the same.
  • Ernie Falcone asked that libraries be opened 7 days a week if transfer tax revenue increased.
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    Devon Resident Bill Bellew’s Remarks at Monday’s Board of Supervisors Meeting Appear as Letter to the Editor

    In a post yesterday, I provided a YouTube link for Bill Bellew’s comments at Monday night’s Board of Supervisor meeting.  Several people have asked me if I had a ‘hard copy’ of his remarks so I was delighted to see that Bill submitted his comments in a Letter to the Editor in this week’s edition of the Main Line Suburban Life newspaper.  Bill’s words provide a powerful statement. (see below).

    I agree with Bill that we (supervisors and residents) need to be looking ahead to the 2011 budget.  Mid-year provides an excellent opportunity to review the actual vs budgeted expenses and revenues of the 2010 budget to date. (the next supervisors meeting in June marks the halfway point).  In addition to a mid year 2010 budget review,  work needs to begin on the 2011 budget.  The 2010 township budget required major cuts across the board, including personnel, fire and library funding, etc.  If you recall, by this time last year the BAWG was  in place and well underway in 2010 budget discussions.

     The 2011 budget cannot wait until November or December; delaying the discussion does not demonstrate fiscal responsibility. 

    Tredyffrin drama must end

    To the Editor:

    Day after day, Tredyffrin seems to be bombarded with political drama without an end in sight. Now in May of 2010, the budget “play” leading up to the 2010 year is still out there. A personal opinion might be that the Board of Supervisors might have told the firefighters serving the township ahead of time that a cut in funding had to be made. Added to that might have been a suggestion that together, the BOS and the firefighters could join forces to fill the void.

    The reality is that filling the void was not on the BOS’ minds beforehand. Only when the “people of all walks of life” rose in a concerted chorus to point out what impact the “modest 5-percent” cut would have on the three fire companies (our leading volunteers) did the BOS see the dilemma they created for themselves.

    For some unknown reason, the BOS has been unwilling to share where the $24,000-plus in contributions to fill the void came from. Let’s end the political drama three of the BOS members created. Here is what I know to be fact:

    1) The Republican Party spearheaded the effort to acquire the funding.

    2) They did it ahead of schedule and raised more than they thought they would.

    3) The party did not write a check – their members wrote individual checks in excess of $5,000 – or approximately 20 percent of the total raised.

    4) Six large donations from companies, trusts, and law firms totaled $5,500 – or approximately 23 percent of the total raised.

    5) Eight present or former members of the BOS contributed $2,800.

    6) One present board member contributed $5,000, which is not part of other contributions listed here. Yes – five thousand dollars.

    7) The remainder came from other sources solicited by the Republican Party.

    8) Now that is political purpose!!! Hats off to the party for this work. Thank you from all of us.

    What many citizens do not understand is why the BOS has taken courses of action that have stirred controversy and raised the hair on the back of our collective necks for no intelligent reason. The two examples to be mentioned are the cutting of the fire-company budget without sharing that with the firefighters beforehand, and the totally unbelievable vote on the sidewalks near Mt. Pleasant.

    Transparency in this township is starting to disappear. Some of the present board appear to be turning what happens in Tredyffrin into a back-room game to be run by political hacks.

    A few weeks ago, the chair of the BOS wrote his second major article since Dec. 9 of last year explaining himself and his actions. Why? Why is it necessary that so much effort be put into all of this when – if the BOS had been up-front and open – we could be talking about the future and not the past?

    What were you thinking? We are not stupid people. My personal feeling is that the BOS has brought the dysfunctional politics of Washington to our community. Ladies and gentlemen of the board – respectfully – knock it off.

    We are looking for leadership – not a “bully pulpit” approach to township business. We are looking for progress – not a drama. If the chair thinks “we’re doing what we believe is the people’s business” by the present-day actions of this board, then he is sadly mistaken. The political game is exactly that – a game. The BOS was elected to govern. do it !!!

    We have too many important issues in front of us – the largest of which is how we will fund 2011 and beyond. How do we partner with each other to raise funds both privately and collectively? How do we encourage the volunteer spirit to continue across the entire township playing field? How do we make the necessary changes in the budget process?

    Keep your eye on the ball, members of the board. Serve the constituents who elected you – all of them. No more surprises. The people of Tredyffrin are watching.

    This is indeed a great place to live, and the BOS has helped make it that. Don’t go backwards.

    Bill Bellew , Devon

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    “Dysfunctional Politics of Washington Brought to Tredyffrin” . . . so says resident Bill Bellew

    During the citizen –  new matters portion of the supervisors meeting last night, township resident Bill Bellew delivered a well-written, measured statement to the Board of Supervisors concerning their actions over the last few months.  His remarks primarily addressed the cut in fire funding and subsequent supervisor fundraising efforts and the St. Davids sidewalk decision. 

    Bill’s comments specifically addressed chairman Lamina’s recent letters to the editors in the paper and the leadership of the Board of Supervisors.  At one point, Bill suggested that the Board had brought the “dysfunctional politics of Washington to Tredyffrin”

    In closing, Bellew remarks that ” . . . We are looking for leadership; not the bully pulpit.  We are looking for progress; not drama.  If you, Bob [Lamina], think you are doing the people’s business by the present day actions of this board, you are sadly mistaken. The political game is exactly that,  a game.  The Board was elected to govern, just do it. . . “

    I believe that Bill’s remarks last night represent the concerns of many of us in the community.  Listening to Bill’s statement,  I would love to think that some of our elected officials would do some soul-searching . . . what’s the saying,  if the shoe fits, wear it?  But I fear that like myself and others who have raised similar concerns and questions of the Board, Mr. Bellew’s remarks will simply be dismissed.  Or . . . will Lamina’s response be another letter to the editor?

    Please click here  to review see all of Bill’s comments captured on YouTube — his remarks are powerful!

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    House Fire on Sullivan Road, Wayne — Family in need of assistance, can you help?

    There was a house fire on Tuesday morning in the Shand Tract area –  Sullivan Road, Wayne.  Volunteer fire companies from Berwyn, Valley Forge, Radnor, King of Prussia, Paoli, Malvern and Lafayette Ambulance (Upper Merion Township) all assisted with getting the fire under control. Deputy Chief  Wayne Riddle from the Berwyn Fire Company, arrived moments after receiving the call to find the single family home with heavy smoke showing from the front of the home.  Nearly 50 firefighter volunteers were on the scene and working together were able to spare the house from a total fire loss. 

    Although the family was not at home at the time of the fire, their two dogs were in the house.  Both dogs were  successfully rescued but one of the pets suffered smoke inhalation and was transported to a local animal hospital.   The Chester County Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the blaze; I understood from a neighbor that early signs show that it may have been an electrical fire in the kitchen. There were no firefighter or civilian injuries reported. Crews from Newtown Square Company, Minquas Fire Company (Downingtown Borough), and Phoenixville Fire Department EMS stood by in Berwyn’s firehouse during the incident.

    Thank you to the many volunteer firefighters who were on the scene so quickly which saved the house from a total loss.  They were also able to keep the fire from spreading to adjoining properties.  This story once again points to the importance of our local volunteer firefighters and we thank them! 

    As a community, we want to know how we can help Michael and Mary Bascome and their children. The family is a member of the Devon Strafford Little League (DSLL) family and this Saturday, May 8 the DSLL will be collecting financial contributions along with boy’s clothes sizes 4-5 and 7-8, small age appropriate toys, new toiletries, new kitchen items and any other essential items you feel would help the family.  During the baseball games on Saturday, a table will be set up at New Eagle Elementary School for collection.

    If you are unable to get to New Eagle Elementary School on Saturday (or would like to help immediately) you may leave donations on the porch of the Hunter’s, 435 Huntington Drive, Wayne, PA 19087. For financial contributions, please make checks payable to Michael Bascome.
     
    Thank you for any help you can offer to this Tredyffrin family.

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    The Definition of a Poor Leader as provided by Tredyffrin Township . . . distrust, discontent, anger and partisan rancor

    Since last Fall, the residents of Tredyffrin Township have endured seemingly endless examples of bad governing, including;

    • $50K St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk offer
    • Fire Funding 2010 budgeting (fireworks vs. fire funding)
    • Fire company politicization
    • Improper supervisor solicitation of funding (Comcast, etc.)
    • Home Rule Charter violations
    • Inconsistent ethics decisions (Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust vs. Fire Funding solicitation)
    • Political party grandstanding/campaigning (cardboard check presentation)
    • Public political party commentary

     . . .  all provided courtesy of our Board of Supervisors leadership, Warren Kampf as chairman in 2009 and Bob Lamina as current chair.

    Most of us have an opinion on the definition of a great leader.  It’s one of those concepts, in which everyone seems to have an opinion.  Instead of defining a great leader, what about the definition of a Poor Leader?  If you go to Webster’s Dictionary and see how they define these two words separately, here is what you get:

    • Leader – A Person or thing that leads
    • Poor – Deficient or lacking in something specified, lacking in skill, ability, or training, deficient in desirable ingredients, qualities

    If you combine the two you get something like:  Poor Leader A person in a leadership role that lacks the necessary skill, ability, and overall qualities to effectively lead. 

    As a leader you are tasked with delivering results.  The best leaders know that consistently delivering great results is not something that they can do in isolation.  To get members of the community to support our local government, our elected leaders need to avoid the worst traits of poor leaders.  In my experience these include:

    • Being arrogant
    • Unwillingness to learn
    • Bullying
    • Poor Communication
    • Incompetence
    • Lack of Accountability
    • Aggression
    • Insincerity
    • Deceitful
    • Ruling with an iron hand
    • Indecisiveness

    This brings me to the purpose of this post.  In this week’s edition of the Main Line Suburban Life, is a I See It’ article written by Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Chair Bob Lamina.  Having attending this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting hoping for an apology for his aggressive, disrespectful behavior of the April 19 supervisors meeting, you can imagine my outrage over Lamina’s outrageous, arrogant words. Do you characterize Lamina and his style of governing as an example of a good leader or a poor leader . . . you be the judge!

    Much has been written over the last few months in Main Line Suburban Life, Main Line Times, Daily Local and Community Matters in regards to the governing of Tredyffrin Township and its leaders.  Since the April 19 Board of Supervisors Meeting, there have been several articles and commentary speaking directly to the leadership of Bob Lamina. Provided are some links in case you missed them:

    Here is the article which appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life by Bob Lamina. Read the article and reflect on Lamina’s selective memory of the April 19 supervisors meeting.  Fortunately my memory is better and I’m hoping that Tredyffrin’s residents share my recall.   This comment already appears after Lamina’s article, ” . . . In your short tenure as the Chair of the Tredyffrin BOS, you have managed to set a record for the most missteps in the shortest period of time.  Congratulations. Disgracing your position in record time is a legacy you can be proud of long after the much-anticipated expiration of your term.”

    The politics of firefighting and other matters

    Published: Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    By Bob Lamina

    In a recent editorial, a local resident who also happens to be a local firefighter pointed out some of the qualities in our community that make so many people look to Tredyffrin as a great place to employ and be employed, to educate our children, to worship, to raise a family, to run a business. In short the qualities that make our township such a wonderful place to live. These are qualities which have long constituted the character of this community – ones which hopefully will endure in the future.

    One of the qualities I’ve also mentioned on a number of occasions as being one of our township’s most endearing, qualities I believe have been equally integral to the character of our community, has been the generous spirit of volunteerism – the spirit of giving, the spirit of shared sacrifice and the spirit of shared risk and reward – that makes up the very fiber and indeed the history of our township.

    That is why last fall, in that same spirit of shared sacrifice, during what remains to this day to be extraordinarily challenging economic times, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a 2010 budget that contained within it some very difficult but necessary decisions. Within our budget were the results of an earlier decision to reduce our township staff by 20 positions – 11 of those through layoffs, the rest through attrition. The budget froze most other township salaries with the exception of those required by collective-bargaining agreement, we instituted a hiring freeze and we reduced the police budget. All other general fund services, with the exception of the fire companies, were reduced by at least 14 percent. 

    By comparison fire-company service providers’ budgets were reduced a modest 5 percent. In so doing, we adopted I believe what the community wanted, a budget that was fair and balanced and contained no real-estate property-tax increase. Despite these good works, during our deliberations we continued to hear from many in the community who asked that we try and find a way to preserve funding sought by the local fire companies. Not unlike a former supervisor who often utilized the bully pulpit we sit on to urge citizens to give generously to the fire companies, it was in response to these requests, that Mr. Olson, Mr. Kampf and I – citizens who happen to be supervisors and public servants who are also citizens of this same community – worked hard to find a way.

    And the good news we announced way back on Dec. 21 was that in a great example of private-public partnering – not unlike our much larger and equally successful Library Capital Campaign a few years ago – individuals, businesses both large and small, organizations and foundations generously came forward in response to our year-end holiday appeal on behalf of our local fire companies. As was also stated at the time, the most remarkable aspect of our ability to provide the sought-after funding was really the manner in which we accomplished it. In a little more than 10 days we were able to restore the funding not in the form of additional subsidies, spending and new or higher taxes during challenging times, but in the form of pledges by others in our community who by their generosity agreed to reach out and lend a hand during the holiday season.

    And that I suppose is why I was so compelled during our last public meeting to question the motivations of those few individuals who came forward to challenge what we successfully achieved nearly four-and-a-half months earlier. My fear is the continued rhetoric being displayed by those who for one reason or another still can’t comprehend the generosity of our community is in fact putting at risk some of these same qualities I believe are critical to our future and ones that we must maintain. Perhaps they didn’t believe that the funding we announced in the form of pledges would really ever be received. Well, we know now the facts are we’ve actually exceeded in charitable giving what was sought to be funded through tax dollars. We also know by earlier comments by a local blogger and former unsuccessful Democratic candidate for township supervisor that she and other similarly motivated individuals had a stronger preference to reach into our taxpayers’ pockets for funding, and that the notion of shared sacrifice for the greater good perhaps shouldn’t necessarily be shared by all. In my view this would have been to take the easier and I think incorrect road – one of increased taxpayer subsidies and spending.

    So with that said, and with the political season in full swing, with the run-up to the Pennsylvania primary election on May 18, it’s always easy for those who clearly have a different point of view, or who are otherwise politically inclined, to throw around words like “conflict of interest,” “ethics” and “pay to play.” While I respect everyone’s First Amendment right to come forward at our meetings and speak their mind, those who know me best understand that I will also never shy away from expressing my own views. And in this instance, while I find that to make such politically charged and unfair assertions some four-and-a-half months later may help sell newspapers, it represents quite a ridiculous point of view with no basis in fact other than to dangerously put in jeopardy one of our township’s demonstrated and most cherished qualities – the spirit of charitable giving. Frankly the tone of some of the comments made near the end of our April 19 meeting was to somehow absurdly suggest that companies doing business in our township aren’t caring citizens too. That is just flat-out wrong, and to continue this type of rhetoric is in fact to tear at the fabric of what in part makes this community great. But, you know, in the end I think the political shots some of us have been receiving are nothing compared to the shots average citizens have taken in our community these past few years.

    So while I’m not worried about the former, I do worry about making the right decisions for our community. The economic stress in our township is still very real. Revenue used to fund government services generated by transfer taxes on the sale of residential and commercial properties isn’t what it used to be, some folks have lost their jobs and their homes, and many have seen their retirement savings greatly depleted. So as I’ve stated, while it isn’t all that unusual in the heat of the political season for every gnat in the minority that’s ever nipped at our heels to want to take us on – or at least those of us who may happen to be running for one political office or another – I would challenge those who have differing views to put aside the rhetoric. I’m all too happy to have a spirited debate on the real issues facing our community. On public-safety matters like support for our firefighters, let’s put aside the politics. I hope that, for the sake of our community and the continuation of the qualities that make this community great, we can all agree on the positive nature of what was accomplished by bringing people of walks of life together in Tredyffrin to help the fire companies.

    I’m committed to doing so if you are. But if there’s anyone who still wishes to draw a political lesson relative to my statement concerning my own character, please know this. I will continue to work for you in good times and bad, and not shy away from making the right and often hard decisions I believe are in the best interests for our community. And lastly, one of the qualities I neglected to mention that also makes this township so great is that we do have good government in Tredyffrin, from the guy who plows your streets to this elected board. We work hard to keep your taxes as low as we can, maintaining the services you have come to expect, while at the same time not making local government intrusive in your lives. So when you do go to the polls on May 18, as I’ve mentioned in these remarks, and like the citizen firefighter who expressed so eloquently the qualities that make this township such a special place, please consider what it’s going to take to continue to maintain these qualities in our community in the future. So whether you’re a citizen supervisor from our own township who aspires to higher public office, or any other candidate, know we’re not playing games here; we’re here doing what we believe is the people’s business.

    Bob Lamina is chairman of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors and a former member of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee.

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    Yes, The Fire Companies Do Fundraise . . . Radnor Fire Company’s Italian Buffet this Sunday!

    Fundraiser for Radnor Fire Company

    Yes, the fire companies do fundraise — I encourage you to come out and support them. The Radnor Fire Company Auxiliary is hosting its semi-annual Italian Buffet this Sunday, April 25th.

    Radnor Fire Company Italian Buffet

    Sunday, April 25th
    4:00 – 7:00 PM
    At the Firehouse
    121 South Wayne Avenue, Wayne

    Dinner includes Rigatoni, Meatballs, Peppers and Onions, Green Beans, Salad, Bread, Beverage and Dessert.  Bring your own wine.  Adults $9.00, Children under 10, $5.00 (under 2 free)

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    Berwyn Fire Company Weighs in on Status of Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive

    If you recall, at the December 22 Board of Supervisors meeting, there was a Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive announcement and cardboard check’ presentation by Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson.  The check in the amount of $23,200 was well documented on the local news channels, in the newspaper and here on Community Matters.  This check was to represent the township’s 2010 budget cut to the fire companies. Although Paul Olson has called me periodically to update me on the Holiday Fund Drive, there had been no official word from either the fire company nor the supervisors.  Last week I sent an email to Rip Tilden, president of the Berwyn Fire Company and copied the Board of Supervisors asking the following questions:

    (1)   What was the total amount received by Berwyn Fire Company as a result of the solicitation efforts of supervisors Olson, Lamina and Kampf?
    (2)   Has Berwyn Fire Company distributed the money to Radnor and Paoli fire companies?
    (3)   Can you provide a complete list of the donors, individuals and corporate?
    (4)   Are there any contributions that the fire company can not accept and therefore must return?

    Rip graciously supplied me with a detailed response to my questions.  Accompanying his  letter to the community was a wonderfully supportive note which I much appreciated.   Below is Rip’s open letter to the residents of Tredyffrin Township.  As I expected, Rip reports that it has been the policy of Berwyn Fire Company not to provide donor information, preferring to turn that responsibility over to the supervisors who were in charge of the solicitation (Kampf, Lamina, Olson). 

    I am going to send a copy of this letter to the Board of Supervisors and ask that the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive be added to next week’s supervisors meeting agenda.  The Holiday Fund Drive has successfully achieved their December goal, and much like it was important to publically announce the solicitation drive with the ‘cardboard check’, I likewise think it is important that the community have closure on this matter. I will ask for an official update from the Board of Supervisors and their response to my questions, including the list of donors.

    Berwyn Fire Company response to questions from Pattye Benson

    April 10, 2010

    Dear Tredyffrin Community,

    On behalf of the three fire companies that service Tredyffrin Township (Berwyn Fire Company, Paoli Fire Company, and Radnor Fire Company), I can report that we have received $24,400 as a result of the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive effort. We understand that one or two additional donations may still be coming to us, which would make the ultimate total greater than that amount.  The donation money will be divided among the three fire companies based on coverage area (each fire company will receive the money donated by individuals and companies who reside in their coverage areas).  We plan to distribute the money to the other fire companies this month (each of the presidents of the fire companies agreed to wait to distribute the funds until all the money was received). 

    These funds will be included in the annual fund drive totals at the fire companies, which means we will use them to help fund our general operations. We encourage members of the community to donate directly to the fire companies through the direct mail fund drives that are currently in progress.  The funding needs of all three fire companies are substantial.  For example, the annual operating budget for the Berwyn Fire Company is approximately $1.5 million, with about 18% of our funding needs in 2010 covered by municipal support (your tax dollars).  We must fund the other 82% of our operating expenses through our own fundraising efforts, billings for ambulance calls and other sources (grants, rent, etc.).  The Berwyn Fire Company responds to approximately 3000 calls a year (fire and ambulance calls) with a team of 65 volunteers and 9 full time employees (firefighter/EMTs and firefighter/Medics).

    We have long had a policy of not releasing the names of donors (either individuals or companies) who make contributions to the fire company, unless they specifically ask us to do so.   No one has done so in this case.  We feel strongly that we should respect the privacy of our donors.  We thank those who have coordinated this fundraising effort and we feel we should allow them to handle any questions as to donor information.

    We thank the members of our community for their support during the budget discussions last year, and for their financial contributions. When it comes to our funding needs, your support is invaluable. 

    We are now focused on working through the Tredyffrin-Easttown Fire Task Force to put in place a long-term funding solution that will ensure that all of the fire companies that serve these townships can continue to provide the superior fire/EMS services that we have come to expect in this community. We look forward to working with both Boards through the current Task Force to achieve this goal in 2010.

    Sincerely,

    Rip Tilden, President
    Berwyn Fire Company

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