Thursday, March 29, 2012

Volunteer Fire Company Ordered to Fork Over Records

Last week, I told you that the Second Ward Fire Company, a volunteer fire company in Bangor, was refusing to produce records requested by Bangor Borough Council member Dave Houser. In a bizarre letter to the State Office of Open Records, Fire Co. Prez Bill Schrack claimed the Right to Know Law has no application to volunteer fire companies. In addition, he argued that it was somehow a "conflict of interest" for a Borough Council member to examine the finances of an organization that the Borough helps fund.

As if the letter was not strange enough, 92 comments were posted calling Houser every name in the book, including a few that have not been invented yet.

Obviously, it's a sensitive subject.

Today, the State Office of Open Records granted Houser's request. It holds, as a matter of law, that volunteer fire companies are subject to the Right-to-Know Law. They perform governmental functions.

63 comments:

Carol said...

Bernie, I don't know Mr. Houser, but now that he can peruse 2nd ward's records, what now? I understand the economics of 3 companies within Bangor Borough;however, one should take notice of the topography of the Borough and the security that the 3 companies afford. Also, the proximity of a fire station effects the insurance of the homeowner. There are many issues involved in this situation, I keep hoping that respect and cool heads will prevail. Carol

Dave said...

The real question is this. Can the taxpayers of Bangor afford 3 fire companies? 2.2 miles is all there is to cover and it has nothing to do with insurance costs. Whoever told you that was full of it. Volunteers aren't free and the equipment for each person is close to 5K and we have 90 firemen rostered in Bangor. The economics of this are horrendous. Change is coming. One Fire Dept. and one Fire company is needed to serve this town. The old dysfunctional model is done. A new model is going to be fashioned. The taxpayers of Bangor will no longer be held hostage by the old system. I come to liberate..not destroy. The taxpayers will be served.

Anonymous said...

Attention Dave,

Adolph Hitler, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, all told their Citizens that they were going to Liberate them!!!

Your like them, on a smaller scale.

Anonymous said...

I agree, every now and then an individual like Dave is elected to a Borough Council.

He's then thrown off Council and rides a Rail, out of Town.

Carol said...

Dave, what are the future plans for Bangor's Fire Dep't., a new building at the old incinerator site, or where? eliminating what companies, eliminating how many firefighters, eliminating what equipment, economics has always been there but what are the costs for consolidating, the fire dep't. was always the largest volunteer in the state. I am just trying to visualize the complete scenario. Carol

Dave said...

I didn't run for office to be adored by the masses. Whether you like me or not is irrelevant. I have an idea of what this dysfunctional mess will look like in the near future. The taxpayers will, I think, embrace change along with efficiency and accountability in their fire service. They have a right to expect that..and it's my goal to bring that expectation to reality. What the rest of council decides is yet to be acted on. I will not speak for them but I do represent the people who pay the bills in this town and that's who I answer to..not disgruntled volunteers who want the status quo. The party is over fellas. Time to grow up and act as responsible adults who really want to serve the community with no strings attached. It's time to show the people where their money went. Time to open the books for all to see.

Anonymous said...

No Dave the real question is this...How can you blame the fire department on all of the financial woes that Bangor has? Personally I think you are doing this for your own self gratification not for the townspeople of Bangor. I agree with Carol...Whats next??? Well Bangor, next time you see Dave Houser you all should thank him for destroying one of the best fire departments in this great state of Pennsylvania. Live on BFD and remember that it's times and people like this that only make you stronger

Anonymous said...

DYFUNCTIONAL MESS!!!!! You have alot of balls you bastard.

Anonymous said...

Gee Dave still have not seen the budget!!!!! How much per man of borough funds per budget year? Bernie I thought you would of done more homework. Boy aren't you and everyone else gonna be surprised when all the facts are out.

Dave said...

More cowards who won't sign their own name. Real men one and all. How was the food at that $5K dollar banquet that 2nd Ward FC threw? Was it a hoot? The public will soon all know where their donations went. $1600 for an accountant? Really? Just the facts..so far. No wonder they wouldn't give up the financials.

Bernie O'Hare said...

God, He's just looking at some records. Why are you all so afraid?

Dave said...

The boro budget is avail. at the boro office. I told you that last week. The boro is transparent..what a concept..eh?

Anonymous said...

I have been following all of the arguing going on for the last week or so but had to make my own comment. I just want to let everyone know how very important it is to have such a wonderful fire department in the borough of Bangor. Over a week ago there was a fatal fire at the Century House. While it was tragic to learn that a tenant of the building was killed because of the fire, remember that it could have been much much worse. As I stood and watched everything unfold, the many acts of heroism and bravery not only from BFD but other fire companies from surrounding regions as well, it was ran like clock work. There could have been more fatalities but with quick thinking these fire departments doused the flames in professional fashion. So while my heart goes out to the family who lost their loved one in that fire my heart also goes out to the BFD and pray that Mr. Houser will see this and think about how important volunteer firemen really are. Bangor is blessed to have you all. God speed

Dave said...

Bernie..have I ever once..said my goal was to disband the Fire Dept. in Bangor? Did I miss something? People must think I have tremendous powers to envision that I could accomplish that by asking to see their financials. What are they really afraid of? Guilty feelings? They are protecting a secret? No one..has ever pushed them this hard to come clean. Gonna hide behind fire victims now? Is that the plan? Just pathetic behavior from supposed public servants.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, he wants more than records. He said himself that Bangor only needs one fire company. He may refer to it as business but I highly doubt that. His goal is to bring people to their knees and make them suffer as much as possible. Who knows, maybe he was bullied as a child....now I see why.

Dave said...

We do only need one company. We have 3. Pretty simple math problem. If we have one FC..we still have fire service don't we? Suffering? On your knees? Your sense of entitlement is misguided. 90 firemen is insane for a town this size. It's ridiculous. 30 could do the job just as well or maybe better. Show the public the secrets. Must be terrible considering the fight your putting up. Liberty FC had no problem showing us where every penny goes..why can't the other two companies do that? Looks like the boro has a fire company that wants to be a partner in the community service business. If they can cooperate..why won't the other two?

Anonymous said...

Regionalization is a lofty goal. It would be in the best interest of the boro to pursue that goal along with our SB neighbors. When you chase grants as a region rather than a lone municipal entity you get the stuff the cities get on a regular basis. It's all based on population and square mile coverage. The bigger the protection area the more you qualify for and have a better chance to get the equipment you need for less. It is a proven fact. Look at the info from the Centre Council of Governments near State College. They have this down pat and the size is approx. the size of the Slate Belt corridor from Portland to Wind Gap. They have been doing it for over 40 years and it works magnificently and for much less. More bang for your buck and all the services you expect for a growing community. It takes vision and action to get to that place. I'm trying to take those first steps..educating the public about what is truly possible and what it takes to get there. It's not personal..it's business. The peoples business.

Dave said...

That is my post above. I always identify myself..hit the wrong button.

Anonymous said...

As a taxpayer in the Boro I idolize the actions of volunteers who do something I would't. I commend them, and some off their obtusive ways. I write in anonyominty not because of cowardice but I can retire soon and leave my misguided town with pride not persecution. I do support the fire companies, but I also support one that has helped me over the years. I also attend that companies fundraisers, and have stopped by to say to them "Great crowd, what are you buying?". They have shown me, no problems. I am an ordinary person, no pull in the community. But they weren't afraid to show me. Class act. Times are changing. A letter in the mail asking for a donation is not fundraising. Work and pride doing it is. I hope what ever path this Boro decides to do, look to the fire company that is strongest and organized to unite into one, tools and equipment not withstanding. Often overlooked and misjudged, but smart and headstrong, they will do it so my hard earned donations will be worth it. And they will unite what this town needs! Thank you for a voice however cowardly Mr. O'Hare sees anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Fidel, I mean Dave:

You should find yourself another hobby to screw with.
Or even take therapy for your mental illness.

Anonymous said...

To Dave,

It's apparent that you have to much time on your hands.
Therefore I would suggest that you volunteer at an area charity, non-profit, food bank or Volunteer Fire Dept.
It's also apparent that you have been subjected to ridicule and humiliation as a child.

Dave said...

Not cowardly at all. Well said and the picture is becoming clearer by the day which FC you are referring to and which FC has the vision to see where this town and region needs to progress towards. Embracing change is not easy but it is crucial to this community to create a new success story that we can all be proud of and can afford in hard times and into the future. My resolve is undimmed despite the backlash and vitriol as it too will pass.

Dave said...

I have been a volunteer at Northampton County Jail for over three years now giving up every Sat. afternoon to counsel returning citizens..helping them find jobs and homes and discussing things spiritual and personal. I'm an offical visitor of the Pa. Prison Society and advocate for inmates in Monroe and NH county. I spent 33 years in Human Services in NJ taking care of mentally and physically handicaped residents. Is that enough or do I have to do more to qualify?

Dave said...

Too much time? I'm retired..I earned it..every penny. I've served my country, survived cancer, had a life saving liver transplant..and you want to call me out?

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

No one wants to call you out. In fact no one wants to call you anything!
Thanks for listing your resume, everyone can now make an informed decision about you!

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Thank you for a voice however cowardly Mr. O'Hare sees anonymous.


I have no problem w/ anonymity unless someone uses it to attack another person. You did not do that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Too much time? I'm retired..I earned it..every penny. I've served my country, survived cancer, had a life saving liver transplant..and you want to call me out? "

That sounds like a miracle! Maybe we can hook up for your story. I'll bet my readers would love it.

Hey firefighetrrs and Dave, I know you all care and all want what is best. Chief, why not sit down with Dave and the two of you can talk. He's reasonable. I think you cold solve this if you work together.

I'm willing to moderate and would even ask a frefighter from BT to come.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

You are a person of reason and would make a good moderator.

Cooler heads will prevail.

Dave Houser said...

Anything is possible Bernie. My eyes are on a better future for everyone and how to get there. I am willing to honor history but refuse to be chained to it. I am a person of action. What is the phrase? Lead..Follow..or get out of the way? Whoever said that gets it. I think I have stated my case as clearly as possible and the State of Pa. agress with my request. I'm waiting..

Anonymous said...

Ding dong the witch is dead, now lets move on with the march of death. Communism only lasted 60 years is in the Soviet Union. Why fix something if its not broke. Your just pissed the borough didn't get a chunk of the Erdman estate. $ 500,000 that went local organziations in the Slate belt area. And what would the borough done with this money? Piss it away. Bad enough, they had to go crawling on their hands and knees E K Eisenhardt a local businessman to fix the borough before they started the renovation project in 1996. Just goes to show the borough can't handle finances. Bad enough you have a councilman how lives across from the park, bitched at meetings about baseballs going in his yard. The borough then proceeded to pay for a $ 60,000 backstop that still doesn't help. Leave the fuckin fire department alone. You may need them one day at your home.

Anonymous said...

All Pennsylvania grant awards are public knowledge and are available at the office of the Pa state fire commissioner. Anyone interested how much public monies go into these companies accounts need look no further. These grants are very strict as to what the monies can be spent on. They are only good on purchases to better the safety of the volunteer and not for paying utilities or fuel for trucks. They are strictly controlled by the commissioners office and must be followed or the company loses its right to the next year or years grants. If you ever go to a meeting on this these you will find were set up by design to keep municipalities from using the money for paying non life essentials like water bills. The grants can only applied for by the companies themselves and have timelines for all to be completed.So please all go have a look.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Leave the fuckin fire department alone. You may need them one day at your home."

This is a dedicated volunteer? What an asshole you are.

Anonymous said...

Talk about assholes. Come out from behind computer. I am not a volunteer. I support the locals and I thanks those who put their time in unlike you. That has nothing better to do. Your such a clown, why don't retire to Siberia, it would be a good place for you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are threatening the guy. Makes you an asshole. Some volunteer you are.

Anonymous said...

There is no need for profanity!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anybody who makes a threat is an asshole. That's the profanity. Now, you are free to contact me and sit down and talk to me, man to man. Yo are free to do lots of things. But you're not free to threaten to withhold service to someone you dislike. People who do that are assholes, asshole.

eckville press said...

"Leave the fuckin fire department alone. You may need them one day at your home"

This comment, by right, shows lack of real leadership within the fire co.

Any real volunteer would condemn that comment. Shame on you!

Respectfully,
Eckville Press

Anonymous said...

Can't we all just get along!!

Anonymous said...

How much does the borough spend on fire service? Just curious does anyone know. Perhaps that would bring better insight to the councilman's claims of horrendous amounts of money spent on this department as it exists. If anyone can find out please post.

Anonymous said...

How's this for an idea!

Dave, indicates that the Borough is having financial problems.

Others, indicate that the Borough has a spending problem.
Why not DISSOLVE the Borough and return to the surrounding Township.
This would solve all the Issues!!!

Dave said...

That figure is public information avail. at the boro office upon request as are all budgets and figures from past years as well as what is alloted for 2012. All utilities for 3 FC buildings plus workers comp for 90 rostered firefighters,insurance and equipment service/repairs. It is substantial.

Anonymous said...

To Dave,

It's substantial...Can you just provide a Dollar Figure.

At least Approximately.

dave said...

Debt service on the trucks purchased by the boro also an expense. I would not estimate the cost but our boro manager will give it to you to the dollar if you wish to call Mr.Kasten when the office opens on Monday. The number is 610 588 2216. That exact info will be made available to you or anyone else who wishes to see what the boro spends on fire service.

Dave said...

It is now my understanding that a financial report of 2nd Ward FC may be given to our boro FC liaison on Monday coming. I hope this is true and a sign of cooperation between that FC and the town they serve. The RTK request is in my name..not the Boro or Boro council. I would encourage and remind the FC to make sure I receive the same info for my inspection to insure compliance.

Mark said...

Dave, while I do agree that all three of the fire companies should be forthcoming with financial information, you may not realize what it costs to operate the companies. A cost of $1600 for an accountant is not unrealistic. A tax return for a non-profit, even a small one, is about 20-30 pages long.
Also, you should be thankful that Bangor has 90 dedicated individuals who are willing to put their lives on the line for NO FINANCIAL COMPENSATION. If other volunteer fire companies had that kind of roster, they would be overwhelmed with pride. It is getting harder and harder to recruit volunteers.
People either don't have the time, because they are working too much just to make ends meet, or they have become selfish and feel that they don't need to do anything to help their community ("we pay taxes and that should take care of things").

Dave said...

I havea copy of 2nd Ward's 2010 IRS Form 990 tax return. It is 8 pages total. It can be viewed on line as it is a public document. It probably took less than an hour to fill out. $1600 for 8 pages? Where did that $1600 come from? Fall out of the sky? As I said above..the party is over.

Anonymous said...

Wow how ironic to complain that volunteers who train all year, spend 100s of hours of personal time in classes with no compensation, wake up at all hours to risk their lives for free just to serve society, don't deserve a privately funded banquet. All these criticisms by someone who has no problem collecting a government pension. How much more self serving can you get.

Anonymous said...

Wow Dave is it your opinion that all funds raised by or donated to the companies by private citizens should be directly handed over to the borough to decide how they will be spent? Or will you dodge another question?

Dave said...

Bernie also has a copy of the Form 990. Do you want to see that document posted for the public to view and comment? You guys just don't get it..do you? You can't BS your way out of the facts. Whoever told you that it was a free ride as a fireman in this town was deluding you. It appears to me that your leadership has failed you miserably. You want to be treated like pro's? Starting acting like pro's. Show the people of this town that you are serious about your volunteer job. You endorsed these people as your appointed representatives. Do they truly speak for you? If not..then I suggest you take action to rectify the situation. Town council made a decision to name a new FC liaison. I supported that move and made that motion and council approved that change. What's your pleasure?

Anonymous said...

Still wont answer. Whats wrong with being honest? Should volunteers pay a monthly premium to serve or just yearly? Have you looked into the costs of a paid department? Are you willing to do this job and pay to do it? Where will all the equipment come from if the volunteers stop all their efforts?

eckville press said...

Will the Brotherhood defend or condemn brother James Michael Andrews. James was a former Fire Marshall and Fire Chief for Macungie. He was sent too Lehigh County Prison on Friday, bail set at $200,000.
Source: Morning Call.

Anonymous said...

Wow beckville what a bizarre statement to post. This isn't about brotherhood defending wrongdoing. Its about a man who has made his living sucking the government tit and is now throwing rocks at those who volunteer. While he feels entitled to receive a public pension for far less ( or perhaps he didn't have the courage to be a fire fighter and is bitter of that fact). I cant imagine anyone in fire service defending this man if the accusations are true.

Anonymous said...

Wow residents of Bangor did you really elect this person as a reflection of your feelings? If not it would be good for you to change this at election time. This is what low voter turnout leads to in office!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Heaven forbid that an elected fficial would like to look at the financial records of a recipient of public money! We can't have that! Throw Dave out!

Come on, people. Settle down. Take a dee breath. Dave is NOT your enemy, unless you are stealing.

Mark said...

Dave, if you think it's a financial drain on a municipality to be a volunteer firefighter, then I suggest you pick up a hose and join in. Observe what these people do, lend a hand, and maybe your view won't be so jaded. Or, create a paid department and watch your taxes triple, just to pay the wages and benefits.

Anonymous said...

Bernie this man has shown that it is far more than a financial record he is after by his own statements. Why else would he refuse to admit after over a week of postings and questions to him that no actual monies change hands here(between borough and stations)except that utilities are paid and trucks up-kept by his own words. He obviously has a deep hatred for these firemen and a desire to destroy the department for his own glory. Perhaps when all is said and done you can do a story how cheap this department is for tax payers. In a day and age when public unions and pensions are sucking the public coffers dry it seems frivolous to attack whether or not volunteers are raising private funds to buy equipment and using some of the fruits of their labors to have a banquet or refreshments for the membership. Maybe when there are no volunteers left you and Mr Hower can get your pictures with the union fireman who will cost ten times the money. Heck maybe he can even get his name on a new firetruck when they actually have to replace them every ten years or face union lawsuits. After all public sector union worked for him. I read in an earlier posting that the grants are public knowledge and it appears to be true. So my guess is he knew this all along but chose to have a peeing contest for his own jollies or to try to make the fireman look bad. Either way for you to say its different after his own postings makes you a look like you have the same desire. Put out half the facts and run with it. Hopefully these firefighters know what they mean to their community and don't take offense to the ramblings of a fool.

Anonymous said...

Your right, any Community that is able to have 60 Volunteer Fireman is lucky.

I belonged to a Dept. that in th 70's and 80's had 70 Volunteers. This Dept. now has approx. 15 to 20
and is unable to fill a truck when leaving the station.

dantheman said...

way to shut it down Bernie open and honest

Bernie O'Hare said...

I shut down ANONYMOUS commentary on saturday night, when the trolls are abundant/

Bernie O'Hare said...

When i require people to be open and honest, they crawl under a rock.

Carol said...

Bernie, verbal vitriolic gets nowhere, I openly admit I am pro-firemen, many who have never needed a fire company don't know or understand how many firemen it takes to get that truck rolling, per the statement, Bangor only needs 30 men, not true, we need 30 of the prevailing 70 or more, to get the trucks out, fight the fire, control traffic, etc. How many of the active who train weekly work days and can't get to a fire, hence the importance of the size of the department, Bangor has always been a role model for fire departments, the size of the department and the camaraderie that comes from within their attitudes and learned skills. Perhaps this dialogue would not have escalated to where it has become if a different attitude had been displayed in approaching the fire companies. Perhaps one company would work economically, but there certainly is a magnitude of costs involved in developing one company. Again, where, how many trucks would be kept, and the questions go on, the firemen themselves work on grants, our cascade truck was a 2 year endeavor. SAFETY FIRST!

Sidebar Bernie, do you do your own art work? Very creative!

Dave said...

Approach? Council has been asking..NICELY..for several years now for cooperation and financial information. This was not frivilous as I have the letters the boro was sent..telling us to F off! You seem to be out of touch Carol. It's 2012 now. Thanks for your opinion.

Anonymous said...

It's apparent that Dave is out of touch with reality, probably from sitting around in the prison atmosphere.
He has also lost touch with the working people who belong to the Fire Dept. They should have invited the royal Prince to the banquet.