Paoli Fire Company

PA volunteer firefighters can now ease funding woes by soliciting drivers on the side of the road – Is this what we want for our first responders in Tredyffrin?

Firefighters fundraising 1PA Governor Wolf signed new legislation last week (Act 57) which allows first responders to solicit donations at stop signs or traffic signals.  Fire companies will need to get written permission from the local municipality and the solicitations are to drivers are limited to controlled intersections (stop signs or traffic signals) and are required to have the necessary liability insurance. The new law goes into effect within 60 days.

This new fundraising legislation may be a useful tool for some volunteer fire companies in Pennsylvania; particularly rural or areas suffering severe economic issues.   But the question for Tredyffrin residents is whether we want to see our volunteer firefighters soliciting drivers on the side of the road as a way to fill budget gaps.

Representatives from fire companies (Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor) that serve Tredyffrin Township residents have repeatedly voiced concern about the increasing demand for fire and rescue services and the lack of reliable funding.   As a result, T-E Fire Companies Funding Coalition comprised of fire companies from Berwyn, Paoli, Radnor and Malvern was formed with a mission to work with government officials to provide sustainable and adequate funding.

The ongoing need for recruitment and retention of volunteer first responders remains a concern.  The time demands for volunteers are so severe, both fire-related and otherwise.  Because people are spending more time on their ‘day’ jobs – there’s just less discretionary time to do anything else, including being a volunteer.  For those who do manage to carve out time for serving as a volunteer firefighter, they want that time to be directed towards firefighting responsibilities not used for fundraising.

The cost to maintain a fire company; its building, equipment, training – continues to increase, with the cost of a new fire truck running in the tens of thousands of dollars.  With the growth of both residential and commercial development in the area, the demand for fire and emergency service also continues to escalate.

According to the Berwyn Fire Company, less than 25 percent of fire service funding comes from the government.  If the fire companies shuttered its doors, the township would still be responsible for providing fire protection. The old formula is no longer working … there is a need for sustainable funding.

Tis the season for budget discussion, including fire department funding – the Board of Supervisors meeting at 7 PM tongiht includes the ‘2016 Preliminary Budget and on Thursday, November 19, 10 AM – 12 PM, the public is invited to attend the Budget Open House at the township building.

Our volunteer firefighters should not be forced to close budget gaps with car washes, turkey raffles, spaghetti dinners or soliciting drivers on the side of the road.  These young men and women need to know they can count on our elected officials to provide adequate and sustainable funding.

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Easttown Township meets the 2015 financial request of Berwyn Fire Company – Will Tredyffrin supervisors step up to the plate?

Berwyn Fire CompanyDepending on where residents live in Tredyffrin Township, your fire and emergency medical services is provided by one of three fire companies – Radnor, Berwyn or Paoli.

In their 2015 budget presentation to the supervisors of Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships, the Berwyn Fire Company asked for $50K in extra funding from each township to fill staffing coverage gaps. Citing an increase in service calls, the fire company asked for the additional contribution to hire a full-time employee to ensure adequate staffing levels. According to the fire company, the requested funding is to address problems with simultaneous EMS incidents and for lower volunteer turnout situations for fire and EMS calls. (Click here for Berwyn Fire Company’s budget presentation).

The Easttown Board of Supervisors heard Berwyn’s appeal and delivered the additional $50K funding in their proposed 2015 budget for the fire company. Actually, the Easttown supervisors took it a step further than requested – the township officials are looking at ways to provide ongoing sustainable funding to allow the Berwyn Fire Company to better plan for future needs.

Unfortunately, for the Berwyn Fire Company, the elected officials of Tredyffrin Township did not respond similarly to their funding request as the Easttown Township supervisors. Tredyffrin Township’s preliminary 2015 budget indicates an increase of $5,670 in funding to the Berwyn Fire Company, falling far short of the fire company’s $50,000 request. Interestingly, Paoli Fire Company receives $2,700 additional funding for 2015 whereas Radnor Fire Company is slated to receive no increase in funding from Tredyffrin Township.  It should be noted that Radnor Fire Company receives an annual contribution of only $23,700 from Tredyffrin Township, … yet, Radnor Fire Company is the primary Fire/EMS provider to the Panhandle residents of Tredyffrin Township.

For the sake of fairness, and to avoid ill will among the three fire companies, it would seem that each service provider should receive a comparable annual percentage increase in funding.

In their 2015 budget presentation, Berwyn Fire Company detailed their goals and needs, which include:

• Recruitment and retention of volunteers,
• Construction of a new fire station to replace the current 1929 building,
• Possible construction of a sub-station to better service Chesterbrook and Glenhardie areas of township and
• Need to ensure adequate paid staffing around the clock.

The Berwyn Fire Company makes the case on their website, (www.berwynfireco.org) that without the fire company volunteers, it would cost Tredyffrin and Easttown taxpayers, “an estimated $1.8 million in salaries and benefits” to staff just one fire engine and one ambulance around the clock. Plus, this $1.8 million figure “does not include building, apparatus, operating and other costs associated with operating a fully paid fire/EMS department.” To date in 2014, the Berwyn Fire Company has responded to 845 fire calls and 2,045 emergency service calls.

The Berwyn Fire Company is nationally recognized for its high standard of service and professionalism. See information below from the Commonwealth’s Fire Commissioner regarding Berwyn Fire Company:

BFC

In their budget presentations to Tredyffrin and Easttown supervisors, in addition to increased call volume, Berwyn Fire Company cited increase in residential structures, increase in commercial structures, and increase in volunteer and paid staffing needs, need for fire inspection, fire and life-safety planning needs as additional funding requirements. Although the community is glad to see new development and redevelopment projects, it should be acknowledged that these new projects increase pressure on the fire companies to meet the needs.

Case in point – the construction of the much-debated assisted living project, Daylesford Crossing on Route 30 in Daylesford is well underway. The 78-unit personal care apartments and specialized dementia care suites is set to open in the summer. Berwyn Fire Company will be responsible for all the advanced life support calls at Daylesford Crossing. (Paoli Fire Company will respond to the fire calls).

Daylesford Crossing 2

Daylesford Crossing

To show support for the Berwyn Fire Company and their request for additional funding to ensure adequate staffing levels for fire and EMS responses, please consider contacting Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors at bos@tredyffrin.org. If you prefer, you can contact the supervisors individually at:

• Michael C. Heaberg, Chairperson mheaberg@tredyffrin.org
• Kristen M. Mayock, Vice-Chairperson kmayock@tredyffrin.org
• Paul Olson, District 1 Supervisor polson@tredyffrin.org
• Evelyn ‘EJ’ Richter, District 2 Supervisor erichter@tredyffrin.org
• John P. DiBuonaventuro, District 3 Supervisor jdibuonaventuro@tredyffrin.org
• Murph Wysocki, At-Large Supervisor mwysocki@tredyffrin.org
• Mark Freed, At-Large Supervisor mfreed@tredyffrin.org

For further information about Berwyn Fire Company, and to find out how you can help, please contact Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas at firechief@berwynfireco.org or Fire Company President, Nam Truong at president@berwynfireco.org.

There’s still time for an adjustment in Tredyffrin Township’s contribution to Berwyn Fire Company — the supervisors will approve next year’s budget on Monday, December 15. (Click here to see Tredyffrin Township’s proposed 2015 budget).

 Show your support for Berwyn Fire Company by contacting your elected officials and ask them to honor the fire company’s request for additional funding.

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Improving Conditions in Tredyffrin Township — Power Returning to Many Households!

What’s the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” – the same could be say about restoring power to Tredyffrin Township and its surrounding areas.  Downed power lines and toppled trees left many roads impassable and neighborhoods with dangerous conditions. Winter Storm Nika is PECO’s second worst in their history in terms of power loss, exceeded only by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  However, as the third day without power ends for many residents, there are improving conditions to report.

Friday evening, I received a phone call from Tredyffrin Township Police Supt. Giaimo offering some updates:

  • Tredyffrin Township now has a crew of 75 PECO trucks, each with 2 employees, dedicated to our township and focused on completing the restoration of all power to residents.
  • The repairs on the main sewer break at Rts 252 & 23 in Valley Forge National Historic Park are progressing and the township’s Public Works and Engineering Departments are moving quickly to resolve the problem.
  • Tredyffrin Township building is open as a warming and charging station.  Although the website states the building is open until midnight, the township building will be open through the night, Saturday and Sunday, if needed.  Coffee and tea is available.
  • Supt. Giaimo strongly urged residents to check on their elderly neighbors.  If you are without power and need a place to stay, the police have an updated list of available local hotels.  They are also arranging for transportation to West Chester shelters, either by buses or in some cases, the police are driving the residents. Residents are encouraged to utilize the resources available at the township building.
  • Much improvement has been made on the road closures with many re-opened today.

Supt. Giaimo assured me that many in the Police Department “have been working around the clock to keep people as safe as possible”.

I have been in contact with Township Manager Bill Martin.  Just as the police chief, the township manager is also working very long hours but wanted me to know that “the hard work is done by all the staff – public works, police and support staff. They work above and beyond anything I have seen in all my years of public service, they care so much about what they do and the residents.”

The hope is that most of Tredyffrin Township should have their power restored by Saturday night – although it may be Sunday for some of the outlining areas.

People are reporting repair crews have arrived from all over the US –Ohio, Illinois, Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts and even crews from Canada!  It was interesting to hear a PECO representative say that they usually don’t receive a high volume complaints in a power outage until about the 72 hour mark but that this time the complaints started at less than 24 hours into the outage.  However, unlike the August storm of Hurricane Sandy, residents are dealing with below-zero temperatures during Winter Storm Nika.

Although I think that PECO could have moved quicker to organize following the power outage and PennDOT did not do its best at handling snow and ice covered roads, I have the highest praise for our home team in Tredyffrin – Supt. Giaimo and the Police Department and Township Manager Bill Martin and his support staff, public works and engineering staff.  In addition, we thank the Berwyn Fire Company Chief Eamon Brazunas and his staff of volunteer fire fighters and Chief Ira Dutter and the volunteers of Paoli Fire Company.   Many of these folks are exhausted having worked long hours, and in many cases leaving their own families and houses with similar power outages to help us – the residents of Tredyffrin – and deserve our appreciation and gratitude!

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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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Last Night’s Paoli Fire Company Fundraiser at TJ’s a Great Success — Thank You to Those That Attended!

L to R: Corky Cornelius, Kelly Raum, Chief Ira Dutter, Lori Dutter, President John Beatty

 

Last night’s fundraiser held at TJ’s for the Paoli Fire Company was a great success.  Community members,  firefighters and volunteers of the fire company enjoyed the evening – with a portion of the proceeds going to the fire company.  One of Paoli’s fire engines parked outside TJ’s added to the atmosphere of the evening.  Thanks to all those that attended and showed their support.

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Support Paoli Fire Company – Sample ‘Firkins’ on Tuesday at TJ’s in Paoli

I am very supportive of our local firefighters and all that they do for the community.  In addition to keeping the residents safe, our volunteer fire companies (Radnor, Berwyn and Paoli) also engage in year-round fundraising efforts. I’m happy to publicize an upcoming fundraiser for Paoli Fire Company – the community is invited to attend and show their support.

On Tuesday, June 8, 6-10 PM, at TJ’s Restaurant & Drinkery in Paoli, the community is invited to show their support of our Paoli firefighters with a firkin.  TJ’s is participating in Philly Beer Week 2010, June 4 – 13 and on Tuesday night will be showing their support with proceeds going to the Paoli Fire Company.  Firkins will be coming from Flying Fish, Sly Fox, Dock Street, Stoudts, Troegs, and Yards. Firkins will be tapped at 4 PM; brewers, reps and the Paoli firefighters will arrive at 6 PM.

Not understanding the world of beer-making, I admit that I did not have a clue about firkins. Firkin?  What is Firkin?  I did a bit of research and found that a firkin is a type of keg that contains “real ale,” also known as “cask-conditioned ale.”  So what’s that?  Cask-conditioned ale is beer that is naturally carbonated, because the beer is put in the sealed cask, or firkin, before fermentation is complete.  The gas produced by the fermentation is then absorbed in the beer.  That produces a gentle, natural carbonation.  Carbonation in standard kegged and bottled beer is produced by adding carbon dioxide (Co2), or sometimes nitrogen, after fermentation.  That’s what gives most beer its fizz.

I may not completely understand the process of a firkin, but I do understand the importance of supporting our firefighters . . . hope to see you Tuesday night at TJ’s!

There are hundreds of events scheduled throughout the city and suburbs for Philly Beer Week 2010.  For a full list of participating venues, click here.

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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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