The ‘Big Give’ in Tredyffrin

In today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper, Malvern resident Kathleen Keohane writes the following Letter to the Editor, titled The ‘Big Give’ in Tredyffrin.  Kathleen’s take on Monday night’s Board of Supervisor Meeting is a poignant reminder to us all on the importance of sufficient funding to our volunteer fire companies.  Here is her letter from the paper:

To the Editor:

After following Tredyffrin’s budget brouhaha for several months, I attended Tredyffrin’s final Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Monday night with a mixture of hope and low expectations. As one of many who came to support full restoration of 2009 funding levels for our volunteer fire companies to the 2010 budget, I doubted there would be enough votes to reverse the cut but I had hope the Christmas spirit would move at least one supervisor to change his mind.

Instead, at the start of the meeting, BOS chair Warren Kampf pre-empted a nasty shout fest by announcing to a standing-room-only crowd that over the last two weeks he and fellow supervisors Paul Olson and Bob Lamina had gotten commitments from local businesses and residents to the tune of $23,200 to close the gap. Mr. Kampf said he thought even more private contributions were likely. He seemed very pleased that no taxpayer dollars were involved.

Short-term, it is good news for the cash-strapped fire companies, but it offers no assurance of future funding. As Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro noted, some of these generous end-of-year donors may be ones who would normally contribute directly to the fire companies and will not do so again during their 2010 fund drives. It is hard to gauge the net effect of this.

Also, the problem of establishing reliable funding streams to allow Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor fire companies to plan for major equipment purchases and other capital expenditures in the future remains. Though fire and EMS services are among the most essential services a township provides, these volunteer companies are left to wonder what lies ahead.

In my view and that of over 500 residents who signed a petition in support of maintaining fire funding at 2009 levels, it is ultimately the responsibility of local government and not private citizens or groups to ensure adequate fire protection. The buck stops with the board.

And we must not take a step backwards! If anything, Tredyffrin supervisors should be looking for ways to increase their support for our volunteer organizations in the future. We need to support them in ways that enhance the fire companies’ ability to recruit more volunteers, whose interests lie in helping the community – not in year-round fund-raising or enduring dismissive treatment from tone-deaf supervisors.

In this era of declining civic engagement, we need to honor our volunteer firefighters/EMTs, who put their lives on the line for us. Not providing a dedicated and predictable level of funding is disrespectful to them and endangers our community’s safety.

The proposed budget cuts to our firefighters sent the wrong message. And while one-time private contributions are much appreciated, they are a seat-of-the-pants response to an ongoing problem.

Kathleen Keohane, Malvern

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