Radnor 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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Hurricane Sandy Affected Firefighters & Families … You can help!

Watching the news of the devastation and loss in New York and New Jersey caused by Hurricane Sandy, left many in this community wondering what we could do to help.

The Radnor Fire Company (RFC) is continuing their collection efforts for firefighters and families affected by the hurricane.  I received the following press release from Eamon Brazunas, RFC Administrative Director, encouraging the public’s help — deadline for donations for upcoming shipment to affected areas is this Friday, November 16, 10 PM.

WAYNE, PA – The Radnor Fire Company is continuing its partnership with the Friends of Firefighters, Inc. (FoF) as a drop-off site for donations for the Fire Department of New York and the New York volunteer fire stations that were destroyed or damaged in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. These donations will assist firefighters, their families and citizens as they recover from this disaster. Based on its organization and influx of donations, the FoF is taking on an expanded role in the wake of the disaster and is working to raise $5 million to aid in ongoing relief efforts.

The first round of donated goods and financial contributions were put to use in Breezy Point, NY and the surrounding areas affected this past weekend. In some cases the donations collected at RFC were among the first items residents received for relief.

To donate directly to the Friends of Firefighters, Inc. you can visit www.friendsoffirefighters.org and utilize the PayPal option. You can also drop checks off at RFC that will then be forwarded to FoF.

For community members who would like to donate, the following are needed:

  • Work Gloves – HIGH PRIORITY
  • Dust Mask – HIGH PRIORITY
  • Flash Lights – Battery Operated
  • ‘D’ Batteries
  • Bottled Water
  • Canned Foods
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Toiletries
  • Trash Bags
  • Paper Towels
  • Shovels
  • Jackets

All donations to Friends of Firefighters, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.

The deadline to donate items for this shipment is Friday, November 16th at 10 p.m.  The next convoy of donations will head up early Saturday,  November 17th. All items are to be dropped off at the Radnor Fire Company located at 121 S. Wayne Ave., Wayne, PA 19087. The fire station is located one block off of Lancaster Ave. across the street from the Wayne Post Office.

Please contact Eamon C. Brazunas, RFC Administrative Director, by phone at 610-687-3245 ext. 10 or by email at admin@radnorfire.com if you have any questions.

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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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“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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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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