Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mini-Firemen Axe Bethlehem Township Commissioners

Like any good horror movie, it started out innocently enough.

Nancy Run Fire Company, which has existed in Bethlehem Township since 1931, is used to running. Manned by forty volunteers, and with no paid staff, this fire company responded to 819 calls last year. It has grown from a department that existed mostly to put out agricultural fires, to one that responds to motor vehicle accidents, automatic alarms and even assists the City of Bethlehem. As its service expands, so does its need for space. On June 20, Chief Jamie Hauze and firefighter Tom Kocsis told Bethlehem Township Commissioners of their plans to add about 3,000 sq ft to a 10,000 sq ft facility, located at the intersection of Easton Avenue and 7th Street. Pricetag? $1 million.

Although Kocsis doubts that cash-strapped Bethlehem Township would offer much in the way of financial support, he and Chief Hauze came prepared with tiny models of Nancy Run firemen, which mysteriously appeared on the dais of Commissioners. They even had flash drives of their presentation, embedded in tiny fire extinguishers.

Unfazed by the tiny Nancy Run fireman crawling before him, Commissioner Jerry Batcha reminded both Hauze and Kocsis that Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Co. just did their own expansion, and at twice the cost estimated by Nancy Run, with no financial assistance from the Township.

Kocsis told Commissioners a number of local businesses have pledged financial support. In addition, Easton Assassin Larry Holmes and former Mets Ace Jack Fisher have both agreed to do signings to help raise money. The fire company is waiting for 501c3 status from the IRS, at which point contributions will be tax deductible.

Commissioner Tom Nolan, who is Bethlehem Township's representative on the Northampton County Gaming Authority, pledged to work with Nancy Run to secure an impact grant. Last year, Bethlehem Township received no impact awards.

After the presentation, Cheif Hauze stated that Nancy Run Fire Co. mans three fire engines and one 100' ladder truck, which is already 20 years into a 25-year life expectancy. After that, it loses its certification, and must be replaced at a cost of about $900,000.

Suddenly, the mini-firemen began trash talking to Commissioners, unhappy with the lukewarm response. This really unnerved both Batcha and Nolan.

Township Manager Howard Kutzler wrestled the minis on the floor and began stomping all over them, but when Commissioners left the building after the meeting, they were greeted by this:

It ended like a Chuckie movie. Very sad. There are now four vacancies on the Bethlehem Township Board of Commissioners.

The Gaming Authority is next.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here is a novel approach. MERGER!! Why two companies.

Anonymous said...

Here is a novel approach: Pay for full time service like every other city your size, stop relying on volunteer services and get a REAL Fire company...

This board should bend over and give them the money, their tax base is high, they only have a police force to pay for... why not fire?

Tim B said...

this place is run by a bunch of idiots. build a community center but don't protect your citizens with a solid fire department. you boys make callahan look good

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, Nancy Run does a pretty good job with fires. Ask Bethlehem Fire Department. And Beth Tp Volunteer Fire Co does a pretty good job with ambulance calls. Ask people in Bushkill Township and Chapman.

If they were part of the Township, the same people complaining now would be complaining about the taxes.

These are volunteers. They sacrifice countless hours for the good of the community, and deserve a little more respect.

Lighthouse said...

"If they were part of the Township, the same people complaining now would be complaining about the taxes.

These are volunteers. They sacrifice countless hours for the good of the community, and deserve a little more respect."

Absolutely!

As for Anon 12:30, greater coordination of resources is a must, both for the Fire Companies and the residents/taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Every volunteer fire company is some families ego trip. Just what we need a thousand little fire companies each with the same expensive equipment. Every time a company gets a new truck every other company must have a new one.

Time to start consolidating some of these groups.

Anonymous said...

Time to make firefighting in Pennsylvania a County paid system. Too much duplication of service. Cities with paid Departments can stay put. Volunteer companies would then be consolidated into a paid County system like Virginia and Maryland.

Anonymous said...

A county system is a great idea. Just one more way for McHale and crew to raise taxes.
\
The volunteer fire companies and ambulance companies are run half-assed. Who oversees their finances? At least in Bethlehem Township the fire companies fundraise, carnival, etc. Someone really needs to do an investigative piece on the perks the volunteers give themselves. Christmas parties, barbeques, you name it, they find a way to compensate themselves.

Nolan must be nuts, gaming money. Can’t wait till they try to sell that line to the gaming commission. “Fires in Bethlehem Tsp. are up as a direct result of the casino.” Come on.

Anonymous said...

Bout time to see you flip-flop into the right direction.

Bernie O'Hare, December 2010:

"Every year, I read at least one or two stories about a local volunteer fire company embezzling $, and now we're supposed to drop $50k on one of them."

Bernie O'Hare said...

No flip flop. I would never agree to drop $50k on a volunteer fire company based on a recommendation by an idiotic Council member who is just looking for votes. There was no time for scrutiny or comparison with other worthy needs.

But I would support a grant of casino funds provided that the application is thoroughly vetted. Members of the gaming authority are doing that with almost painstaking deliberation, unlike morons like Dietrich. He just likes to ride in an ambulance and say "Wheeee." I did not trust his proposal or him.

Anonymous said...

"Someone really needs to do an investigative piece on the perks the volunteers give themselves. Christmas parties, barbeques, you name it, they find a way to compensate themselves." Give me a break. What Perk will the widow receive when her son or husband dies trying to save YOUR life? You don't think about it until it actually involves you. I think a christmas party is a well deserved thing for these women and gentlemen.