Berwyn Fire Company

Supervisors Olson, Lamina & Kampf’s Firefighter Holiday Drive is Complete . . . Will township or fire company provide a final report?

At the December Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors Olson, Lamina and Kampf announced the ‘Firefighter Holiday Drive’ with a ‘cardboard check’ in the amount of $23,200.  As the solicitation committee, these supervisors were committed to providing the fire companies with contributions totally the amount which was removed from the firefighter funding in the township’s 2010 budget.  To balance the township budget, the $23,200 represented the contribution cut from Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies.  There was much advertising of the cardboard check and the holiday drive provided on the local TV news, in local newspaper articles and also on Community Matters.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote of receiving a phone call from Paul Olson on March 31, reporting that the fire company solicitation drive by himself and supervisors Lamina and Kampf was complete and they exceeded their original goal; giving approximately $25,000 to Berwyn Fire Company.  I appreciated receiving Paul’s updates during the 2010’s first quarter but did have several additional questions.  In response to my questions, he suggested that I contact Berwyn Fire Company’s president Rip Tilden.

Based on the public commentary to, In Forty Years There Have Been Many Changes in Tredyffrin – Unfortunately Some Things Never Change . . . Fire Company Funding , post this week, I contacted Rip Tilden of the Berwyn Fire Company.  I sent Rip an email (and copied the Board of Supervisors) and asked for his response to 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?

Although I have not heard back from Berwyn Fire Company directly, it is my understanding that the fire companies will be providing a joint statement in response to these questions. Providing official closure on the firefighter funding drive is important to the community;  I look forward to providing the details.

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In Forty Years There Have Been Many Changes in Tredyffrin – Unfortunately Some Things Never Change . . . Fire Company Funding

This topic is Community Matters at its best.  I received an email yesterday with an attached Suburban and Wayne Times newspaper article dated Thursday, July 15, 1971.  A reader was cleaning out his attic and came across this article and forwarded it on to me.   No comment or request to post on Community Matters . . . he  just thought I might find it of interest.  The title of the article is, “Volunteer Firemen’s Financing is Critical”.  (A link to the article at the end of this post.)

The article is based on local volunteer fire companies along the Main Line and Valley Forge, including Radnor, Berwyn and Paoli.  What is both fascinating (and sad) at the same time  is the plea for the volunteer firefighters funding  in 1971 is exactly the same as in 2010.  The tone of the article begs that more support needs be offered by the municipalities served.  In discussing firefighter funding, a fire chief is quoted in the article as saying,  “It has to be done on a municipality basis.  It’s the township’s or borough’s responsibility to provide protection for persons and property. . . . They don’t take the responsibility . . . The volunteers do it.”

In 1970, Tredyffrin supervisors allocated $15,750 to the Berwyn fire company.  Forty years ago, the Berwyn Fire Company had a deficit $1,632, due to lack of volunteer firefighter support.  With populations exploding on the Main Line and aging equipment in 1971, all the fire companies were appealing to the local governments for adequate funding.  There was agreement among the various fire companies, that greater support was required from the service areas.  Here’s a fascinating 40-year old quote, when talking about residents, fire chiefs observed, “Many encounter surprise from new residents that the fire company isn’t a municipal service.  Some persons have never even heard of a volunteer fire company, particularly those from metropolitan areas.”  I am guessing that our local fire companies still encounter the same kind of remarks in 2010!

There is discussion in the article as to “What can residents do to back the volunteer fire companies”?  The response was “Join!”.  In 1971, the yearly dues were $1 for the Valley Forge company, $2 in East and West Whiteland, $5 per family in Berwyn and $12 per family in Paoli (which included family and ambulance service).

This post should be more than simply a walk down memory lane.  It needs to be a wake-up call to the supervisors and residents.  Although I have posted that Paul Olson called and told me that his solicitation committee (which included him, Lamina and Kampf) have made good on the cardboard check they presented to the Berwyn Fire Company in December, . . . there has been no official statement from the Board of Supervisors on the subject.  If you recall, the cardboard check of $23,200 represented the amount the supervisors removed from the fire companies in the 2010 budget.  Guess my question is where do we stand on the 2011 budget process . . . will the fire companies see their total budget reinstated?  And if the township reinstate the contribution to the fire companies in the 2011 budget, what will the supervisors cut from the budget to make that happen? 

We are in to the 2nd quarter of the year; has the Finance Committee begun working on the 2011 draft budget?  I’m thinking that there are associated winter costs (snow removal, stormwater problems, repair of potholes, etc.) that could be considerably higher than was forecasted for in the 2010 budget.  The 2011 budget process needs to be underway or there is going to be major problems come November.  With the loss of Dave Brill as the township finance director, I am assuming that the supervisors need to take a very active role in the economic forecasting.

Here is a link to the 1971 newspaper article, if you would like to read it in its entirety.  Funding of our fire companies is an important issue and a topic that needs to remain at the top of our priority list.  Comments from the readers . . . ?

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Community Matters Mainstreams into Main Line Suburban Life Newspaper

Community Matters mainstreamed into Ray Hoffman’s column in this weeks’ Main Line Suburban Life. I thanked Ray for his mention and left a comment that Community Matters is now independently hosted with a new web address, www.pattyebenson.org .  Through the paper, I’m hoping that more readers will join our discussion.

” . . . 2) Mt. Pleasant meeting: Pattye Benson, author of the popular Community Matters blog (pattyebenson.wordpress.com), attended a town meeting in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood last week, as did a church full of local residents and a few local government officials. If you haven’t already, visit Pattye’s blog and read about a couple of rather deplorable conditions directly across the road from, heaven forbid, St. Davids Golf Club, one of the Main Line’s most prestigious addresses. St. Davids has nothing to do with the problems at the Mt. Pleasant miasmic panhandle, but it seems ironic that the township supervisor representing this district was very visible in the recent matter of “the sidewalk” at St. Davids but was notably absent from the Mt. Pleasant meeting.

Simply stated, the meeting was about problems with rental residents (students) who have become concerns to the full-time residents of the area, and a vacant lot that is a mound of crumbled concrete and ever-increasing trash (broken bottles, tin cans, car tires, etc.). According to a neighbor, the overgrown lot is an eyesore and a haven for rodents that have also infiltrated her home. Township Manager Mimi Gleason has taken action about the vacant lot, as have both the Chester County Board of Health and the state Department of Environmental Protection. A resolution should be forthcoming within days. The township also hopes to resolve the concerns about noise and other behavior of the students living in the rental properties. . . .”

A reminder that Monday, April 5 is the Board of Supervisors Meeting, 7:30 PM, Keene Hall, Township Building.  There’s some supervisor housekeeping issues that should be addressed — what is the status on the newly formed Sidewalks Committee (have they met, worked out a mission and schedule); public update on the ‘cardboard check’ to the fire companies and official update on the Mt. Pleasant community.  I am going to suggest to some of the Mt. Pleasant residents that I know that they should attend the meeting; their neighborhood is a ‘talking point’ and we need residents there to help clarify the update.

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Some Community Updates . . .

Some Community Matters updates . . .

1.  Local Job Fair:  State Representative Paul Drucker’s Job Fair yesterday in Phoenixville was an enormous success . . . over 400 job seekers attended!  Rep. Drucker reported that people were lined up outside the convention center and down the street  prior to opening of the event.  Over 40 companies participated in the Job Fair including the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Social Security Administration, Cosi, Chesterbrook Academy, Wegmans, Northwestern Mutual, TD Bank, to name a few.  Rep. Drucker told me that he knows of one employer who hired 5 people yesterday!  Sounds like it was a good day for employers and prospective employees.  Great job Paul!

2.  Fire Company Funding:  Supervisor Paul Olson called me yesterday to provide an update on the status of the ‘cardboard check’ to the fire companies — yes, he referred to it as a cardboard check.  In December at a Board of Supervisors meeting, the supervisors unveiled a cardboard check in the amount of $23,200 which was to make up the fire company deficit that was removed in the 2010 township budget.  Through supervisor fundraising efforts by Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Olson, Olson explained that they had exceeded the dollar amount of the cardboard check.  The total collected of approximately $25,000 was turned over to Rip Tilden of the  Berwyn Fire Company for distribution to the fire companies.  No information was provided as to the actual source of the contributions.  However, one of the individual contributors told me that she received a thank-you from all 3 fire companies so presumably the money has been distributed. 

3.  TESD 2010-11 Budget:  Malvern resident Ray Clarke took the advice of Community Matters readers. Based on posts and comments, Ray has a letter to the TESD School Board with the following list of questions.  Here’s hoping that the School Board will consider these questions as they prepare for the important upcoming Finance meeting on April 19.  Thanks Ray.

  • Can the school district impose a PIT on the residents?
  • Does Act 511 permit the District imposing PIT?
  • Would imposing PIT require voter referendum?
  • Would the imposition of PIT reduce property taxes?
  • Is a voter referendum required for EIT?
  • If there was an EIT, how would the split of revenue work between Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships?
  • Does an EIT reduce the property tax bill?
  • Would both townships be required to have an EIT in place to receive the revenue? Or, would the townships receive their portion of the school district’s EIT revenue?
  • Would there be a difference to the teacher unions in regards to an EIT or PIT?
  • Does the rate have to be the same for both townships?
  • What are the options for splitting the revenues between townships and school district, and does the split have to be the same in each township?
  • What is the exact nature of the reciprocity arrangements with neighboring jurisdictions, particularly Philadelphia
  • What will be the estimated financial impact to townships and school district, under various likely scenarios of rate and split, on the following dimensions:
        a) Incremental taxes paid by township residents
        b) Taxes currently paid by township residents to other municipalities that will stay in T/E
        c) Taxes paid by non-residents
        d) The total of the above

I’m glad to provide updates to ongoing community issues; let me know if you have anything new to report.

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Our Fire Companies Should Not be Political Pawns

Working together, the volunteer firefighters of Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies serve  Tredyffrin Township.  Many of our residents and their families are involved in the volunteer firefighting effort and proudly serve our community.  Firefighting is demanding. There are hours of training involved, requirements to be met, standards to uphold, and volunteer firefighters are not compensated in the traditional way. There is no big paycheck or large monetary bonus to work harder.

John DiBuonaventuro has served as a volunteer firefigher for the Paoli Fire Company for many years and is passionate in his support.  In his position as a member of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro also serves as the fire company liaison.  As an audience member in this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting,  I witnessed an uncomfortable exchange between Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Warren Kampf in regards to the fire companies and their funding.  Understanding DiBuonaventuro’s long-standing support of the  fire companies vs. Kampf’s vote against full-funding of the fire companies in the township’s 2010 budget . . . one might question Supervisor Kampf’s sudden interest in our local fire companies and their funding. 

Our volunteer firefighters deserve our community’s support . . .  but I think we would all agree they should not be used as pawns in a political campaign. Today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper includes the following As I See It opinion article, The continual politicization of our fire services, which speaks directly to this topic.

    As I See It: The continual politicization of our fire services

By John V. Petersen

As if the big cardboard-check moment during the Dec. 12, 2009 Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting wasn’t enough, we had another play at Monday night’s BOS meeting involving the fire service as a political football. As we all know, Warren Kampf, current Tredyffrin BOS member and previous chairman, is seeking to challenge Rep. Paul Drucker for the State Representative seat for the 157th Legislative District. At Monday night’s BOS meeting, Mr. Kampf stated that he met with members of the Berwyn Fire Company and the topic of a stable long-term firefighter-funding source was discussed. What Mr. Kampf failed to tell the public was his visit to Berwyn was in connection with his 157th candidacy, not in his capacity as a Tredyffrin supervisor. For the record Supervisor and Paoli firefighter John “J.D.” DiBuonaventuro serves as the fire liaison.

 In that capacity, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro has had such meetings concerning the fire task force and funding with Berwyn and Paoli FDs and updates on that progress have been shared with the public, most recently at the March 1, 2010 meeting. On that same day Mr. Kampf sought the Montgomery County endorsement for the 157th and therefore did not attend the March 1 meeting and clearly was not aware that the matter was already discussed during the previous meeting.

What I find disingenuous is Mr. Kampf on one hand stating the importance of finding a stable long-term funding source for the fire companies and on the other hand, most previously in his role as BOS Chairman, supporting cuts to the fire service and at the same time retaining funding for the annual July 4 fireworks display. These two viewpoints are completely irreconcilable. It should also be noted that earlier in his tenure on the BOS, Mr. Kampf served on fire task force. Accordingly Mr. Kampf has already had an opportunity to address the issues that are currently being addressed by Supervisor DiBuonaventuro. It is clear that the only motivation here is Mr. Kampf’s pursuit of higher political office. And to that end he is seeking to use the fire service as a pawn in his political chess game. Between the big cardboard-check event and last night’s meeting, it is clear Mr. Kampf is using a public forum dedicated to township business for his own political purposes. In a word it is inappropriate.

When the firefighters and EMTs perform their heroic work, they don’t ask about party registration. To be used as a political football of sorts is to denigrate that heroic work. Ultimately Mr. Kampf is free to run his campaign as he sees fit. As citizens we have forums like this to hold candidates and office-holders accountable. All I would ask is that Mr. Kampf campaign on his own time, not during the time when the business of Tredyffrin Township is to be addressed. Further, I would ask that all candidates leave the fire service out of their political calculus. There are plenty of other matters ripe for politics. The fire service is not one of them.

John V. Petersen lives in Paoli.

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Fire Company ePetition Administrator Speaks Out

I am hoping that this will be the last entry on the firefighter’s ePetition.  Last week, I posted TTRC Chair CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor in which he stated that he signed the firefighter’s ePetition.  Research on the ePetition showed that his name was not on the list which caused a major debate about whether or not Mr. Alexanders’ name was simply removed.  Only one person who could answer those accusations – Laurie Elliot, the firefighter’s ePetition administrator.  It only seems fair that I post her response on the subject – a Letter to the Editor which is in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life.

Included in her statement, Laurie includes a link to the ePetition if anyone wants to check the signatures.  Laurie created the ePetition as a vehicle for residents (like herself) to show their support of the fire companies and to encourage the supervisors to reinstate the fire companies budget cut.

On the same subject, it has been a month since the unveiling of the cardboard check at the December 21 Board of Supervisor Meeting.  To bring you up-to-date on the promised contributions, yesterday I emailed Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Olson for an update on money collected.  My latest information is that the supervisors have collected $8,950. I am hopeful that more money has been turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company for distribution, but as of today I have no further updates.  On the $5K in matching funds from the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee, Mr. Alexander’s last correspondence indicated that just about all that money has been delivered to the fire company.  In my last phone call from Supervisor Olson, he stated that the $23,200 total would be delivered to the fire company by March 31st. 

This is all about making sure that the volunteer firefighters receive their promised money — nothing more, no political agenda on my part.  Since the township’s 2010 budget was passed with the fire department cut, I take it seriously to make sure that these volunteers receive the total contribution as promised by Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson.

Fire companies need support

To the Editor:

This is in response to a letter in last week’s paper by Tredyffrin Republican Party chair John C.T. Alexander. In it he claims to have signed the “Internet petition in favor of reinstatement of the Berwyn Fire Company’s budget cut from the [Tredyffrin] township’s 2010 budget.”

As the administrator of that e-petition, I monitored it during its 10-day online life and closed it on Dec. 21 when I presented a copy of it to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting that evening. The petition and all those who signed it can still be viewed at tredto.epetitions.net.

In total, 534 people found their way to the Web site and signed the petition. But John C.T. Alexander’s name is not among them.

Further, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Alexander would claim he signed it. His very public position that the long-term needs of our volunteer fire companies can be met through ad-hoc private donations misses the whole point of the petition and clings to a Band-Aid approach.

The fire companies not only needed their 2010 funding restored, but they need a comprehensive, long-term solution that provides support for their operating and capital expenditures in the future. And not until such a plan is in place can the community “move on” as some are suggesting.

Sincerely,

Laurie Elliott, Wayne

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