Malvern resident Kathleen Keohane offered her opinion on the Firefighter’s Holiday Drive in this week’s edition of the Main Line Suburban.
Other side in Tredyffrin
To the Editor:
I’d like to respond to a letter in last week’s newspaper by Tredyffrin supervisors Bob Lamina and Paul Olson. It artfully attempts to reframe a series of controversial actions taken by the board over the last month but in my view fails miserably.
Messrs. Lamina and Olson, along with fellow supervisor Warren Kampf, made the evening news several weeks ago when they presented a giant cardboard check representing funds they’d raised for the township’s three fire companies. The facsimile represented pledges from the community to cover the amount they’d voted to cut from the 2010 budget two weeks before.
This effort by these three “citizen-supervisors,” as they called themselves, was an unnecessary exercise because these cuts should never have been made in the first place. In the absence of dire financial circumstances, adequate funding for our fire companies should never have come under the ax – a position held by surrounding communities that also struggled with this year’s budgets but kept fire funding intact.
Also, in an effort to tie the grand gesture of soliciting for contributions to our fire companies to Republican Party politics, our elected township supervisors perverted their roles as public officials. Much was made of the party’s pledge of “matching funds” both in Lamina and Olson’s letter and at the township’s final BOS meeting. But the money came from individuals who are members of the party and not the party. Yet the windy speech given by the chair of the TTRC before Channel 3 cameras made the source of the funds unclear.
The source of the other contributions opens up a can of worms as well. Do they represent funds normally raised by the fire companies that will cause their separate fund-raising projections to be overly optimistic? Will the funds be allocated according to the individual fire-company cuts or according to the location of the donor? Isn’t there some concern that funds were solicited from companies doing business with the township? For example the law firm of Lamb McErlane contributed in December and one of its partners was reappointed township solicitor on Jan. 4. Liberty Property Trust made a contribution and it will bring a matter before the board sometime this year involving the possible condemnation of land to build an access road. Even the slightest whiff of pay-to-play should be avoided.
In my view this face-saving fund-raising activity should never be repeated. While the community’s support for the fire companies in the form of annual contributions should be encouraged, our supervisors’ job is to oversee the safety and proper maintenance of our township and to allocate our tax dollars accordingly. Over 500 residents signed a petition asking that the budget cuts to our fire companies be restored. I believe that given more time and awareness, an overwhelming number of Tredyffrin residents would have signed it. There’s no political divide on this issue. Safety comes first.
Going forward we need to establish a citizen group in Tredyffrin, made up of fire and township officials, community businesspeople and concerned residents to study and recommend a secure and adequate funding stream for our fire companies. The decision should never again be left up to seven supervisors, one of whom is running for higher office on a platform of no tax increases.
Kathleen Keohane, Malvern