Other Side in Tredyffrin

Malvern resident Kathleen Keohane offered her opinion on the Firefighter’s Holiday Drive in this week’s edition of the Main Line Suburban.

Other side in Tredyffrin

To the Editor:

I’d like to respond to a letter in last week’s newspaper by Tredyffrin supervisors Bob Lamina and Paul Olson. It artfully attempts to reframe a series of controversial actions taken by the board over the last month but in my view fails miserably.

 Messrs. Lamina and Olson, along with fellow supervisor Warren Kampf, made the evening news several weeks ago when they presented a giant cardboard check representing funds they’d raised for the township’s three fire companies. The facsimile represented pledges from the community to cover the amount they’d voted to cut from the 2010 budget two weeks before.

This effort by these three “citizen-supervisors,” as they called themselves, was an unnecessary exercise because these cuts should never have been made in the first place. In the absence of dire financial circumstances, adequate funding for our fire companies should never have come under the ax – a position held by surrounding communities that also struggled with this year’s budgets but kept fire funding intact.

Also, in an effort to tie the grand gesture of soliciting for contributions to our fire companies to Republican Party politics, our elected township supervisors perverted their roles as public officials. Much was made of the party’s pledge of “matching funds” both in Lamina and Olson’s letter and at the township’s final BOS meeting. But the money came from individuals who are members of the party and not the party. Yet the windy speech given by the chair of the TTRC before Channel 3 cameras made the source of the funds unclear.

The source of the other contributions opens up a can of worms as well. Do they represent funds normally raised by the fire companies that will cause their separate fund-raising projections to be overly optimistic? Will the funds be allocated according to the individual fire-company cuts or according to the location of the donor? Isn’t there some concern that funds were solicited from companies doing business with the township? For example the law firm of Lamb McErlane contributed in December and one of its partners was reappointed township solicitor on Jan. 4. Liberty Property Trust made a contribution and it will bring a matter before the board sometime this year involving the possible condemnation of land to build an access road. Even the slightest whiff of pay-to-play should be avoided.

In my view this face-saving fund-raising activity should never be repeated. While the community’s support for the fire companies in the form of annual contributions should be encouraged, our supervisors’ job is to oversee the safety and proper maintenance of our township and to allocate our tax dollars accordingly. Over 500 residents signed a petition asking that the budget cuts to our fire companies be restored. I believe that given more time and awareness, an overwhelming number of Tredyffrin residents would have signed it. There’s no political divide on this issue. Safety comes first.

Going forward we need to establish a citizen group in Tredyffrin, made up of fire and township officials, community businesspeople and concerned residents to study and recommend a secure and adequate funding stream for our fire companies. The decision should never again be left up to seven supervisors, one of whom is running for higher office on a platform of no tax increases.

Kathleen Keohane, Malvern

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18 Responses

  1. Once again, Ms. Keohane actually exposes truths in a sea of rhetoric put forth in the letter last week. As a registered Republican, I find it harder and harder every day to stomach the TTGOP. Ultimately, though, this isn’t a political issue – the fire companies should be funded adequately, Tredyffrin is legally bound to do so, they have failed, they should be held accountable. This impacts everyone in these municipalities (and now those outside who are called upon to pay for Tredyffrin’s arrogance).

    If you think this is ok, wake up. The volunteers already save the township millions AND generate revenue through fundraising saving the township even more. Tredyffrin is clueless.

  2. Kate:

    In the interest of full and fair disclosure, maybe in your “letters to the editor”, you should disclose your affiliation as the Treasurer of the Tredyffrin Township Democrats?

    • Yes… I agree with Mike on this. I have slammed the GOP for this very thing. If you are a member of a political committee, that fact should be disclosed when comments are politically motivated and oriented.

  3. Kathleen,
    Congratulations on a well written, meaningful letter to our community. Although I would like to hear more from our fire companies, I fear they are stuck in a wicked political web. Perhaps the community can continue to support them. New petition? More letters?

    • CJ:

      New petition? More letters? How about MORE CHECKS – that’s how the community can best support the fire companies.

      • More checks? I already write a check…taxes. I expect my municipality to cover what may or may not be donated in a year. So that if that money doesn’t come, the fire company isn’t left short. You can’t force people to donate, but you can force people to pay their taxes.
        Why not find out what the average person donates, then make that the tax value. if 1/3 of people donate now, then that means the fire companies will get 2/3 more money every year when everyone has to pay that amount. If people want to donate on top of that, great… if not, they aren’t getting a free ride.

  4. Thanks for posting this. How tragic that it takes innuendo of scandal to illustrate how arrogant the one-party “Big 3” KOL Supervisor block is. Tredyffrin residents need to decide if they can afford to live in the kind of township they want (and expect — not spending outrageously, but responsibly funding services we expect), or if they want to live in the kind of township (don’t fund responsibly) that these 3 “we know best” supervisors think we need. I’d rather raise my taxes and know what they cost (and deduct them on my federal return) then fall victim to the revenue schemes in next year’s revenue budget (one example: Leaf Collection Permits — $15,000 in 2009, $40,000 in 2010…just who do they think will pay THAT????) I’ll donate to charities, but I don’t think fire protection is a charity. Thanks.

  5. Sarah I couldn’t agree more with your last line – Fire protection is not a charity.

    Mike, I ask you this flat out – Is Tredyffrin Township, and by that I mean ultimately the BOS, responsible for financially supporting fire and EMS within the township?

  6. For once I have to agree with Ms. Keohane & yes she should have indicated her affiliation with the TTDems.

    I also pay taxes and expect those taxes to include funding for fire & emergency services, and I also support the Berwyn Fire Co with an annual donation. I also make charitable donations, but as Sarah wrote “Fire protection is not a charity.

    And yes, I think it’s time for the township to institute an EIT so that revenue paid to other townships comes back to Treduffrin

    • By law, the township gov’t has to help fund the fire and ems services. The other interesting angle to the story is whether Bob, Paul and Warren violated the home rule charter when they solicited funds in their capacity as supervisors. You can find the charter here: http://www.tredyffrin.org/pdf/ordinances/home-rule-charter.pdf.

      Check out Article IX, Section 902(A)(2).

      Consider this – your a business in Tredyffrin that has or may have pending business in front of the planning commission or ZHB and a supervisor, who id’s himself as such, solicits a donation on behalf of the fire companies. What if you don’t give? It could be reasonably concluded that this could tend to influence the discharge of duties of their office.

      Yet more evidence to suggest that Kampf, Olson and Lamina should resign from the BOS.

      • where do you draw the line?

        Consider this – your a business in Tredyffrin that may have need for the fire companies services and a firefighter, who id’s himself as such, solicits a donation on behalf of the fire companies. What if you don’t give? It could be reasonably concluded that this could tend to influence the discharge of their services.

        • Pretty simple line… The fire fighters are not elected. We expect the fire fighters to solicit donations. Nothing wrong with that. Supervisors on the other hand, in their capacity as such – that is a different matter. There is a bar to that activity.

          This whole episode should in fact reveal just how incompetent Kampf, Lamina and Olson are. They can’t get the funding straight. They support new supervisors who believe that public dollars shouldn’t be used for the fire companies. They then end up violating the home rule charter – with political grandstanding in the process. And all the while, these same people abuse the BAWG process – vis a vis St. David’s – to further perpetuate a political goal. And all the while, they will tell you that they are doing nothing wrong.

          Not only are they liars – they are not all that smart about it. And to top it off, you then get dopey comments from Lamina stating that the most important ship is “Leadership” – re: Kampf. Kampf has probably been the most incompetent chair the BOS has seen. Although, he may be surpassed by his vice chair.

          Seriously folks, point me in the direction of anything that these guys have done that has either been considered beneficial to the community and/or has shown even a modicum of intelligence as to how to govern. There has been no strategic long term planning of any kind. They have chocked this township to the point where it can barely function. Meanwhile, the TTRC continues to put these same type of jokers forward and the TTDC is too incompetent to prevent it. One thing is clear – 2005 was a fluke.

          So…just to be clear – Kampf, Lamina and Olson represent a virus that must be stopped. And in the case of Kampf, we need to make sure that virus does not spread to Harrisburg.

          End of rant…

          • “They support new supervisors who believe that public dollars shouldn’t be used for the fire companies”

            now they are trying to cut ALL funding for the fire companies? here i thought it was only 5%…

            “And in the case of Kampf, we need to make sure that virus does not spread to Harrisburg”
            you forgot to add ‘because Harrisburg is currently pure as white driven snow’

  7. They are responsible and they do financially support fire and EMS – to the tune of about $400,000 per year.

    This my OPINION about thei fire companies’ financial challenge. The Township might restore the funding to the previous level in the next couple of years – the Board of Supervisors are frugal and I don’t think will respond well to pressure, unless it’s truly broad-based, and even then, maybe not. So, the companies could recover $20,000 or so.

    The much greater opportunity is in contribution. The partnership between the fire companies and the community is a unique one – they support each other – we can’t and shouldn’t count on the Township to bear the entire cost. The volunteers give a tremendous amount and are generally appreciated, but the community has not had a good understanding of their finances. Many have the idea that the contributions are “gravy” – that the fire companies do just fine without donations. Thus the financial support has been tepid and inconsistent. Recent events and discussions have opened alot of eyes. The community is beginning to understand that their help is essential. Continue to educate them.

    My suggestion is, first of all, embrace a “Fire Board” that includes community members to help in fundraising efforts and build a stronger bridge to the community. The overall approach in the message – grateful and gracious, as the Fire Companies reps were when they got the “big check” . Some of the recent “us vs. them”, combative stuff is absolutely counterproductive, especially with larger donors – they want to be welcomed to the Fire Dept. “team”. Bill DeHaven, God love him, standing at the microphone at the BOS meeting saying, “People don’t give!” is not helpful. Be careful with the “if the Township had to hire a Fire Department, it would cost $xxmilliion per year” – that sounds like a veiled threat. The message should educate people and be positive.

    My 2 cents and food for thought, nothing more.

  8. – To Freddy, your comment is offensive to me. That you would even suggest that these volunteers would do something like that reveals your true moral compass. Your arrogance is disgusting.

    A few points:
    The bottom line is that by law Fire & Protection is a municipal responsibility. Our local fire companies should not have to rely on private donations to provide this vital service.

    Right now Tredyffrin Township only “contributes” to less than 20% of the yearly operational budget of these departments combined. There is no debate as to weather or not the township should be providing more funds. It’s their responsibility, get over it. Stop trying to argue that private donations are the better option.

    How would you feel if the Police Department had to rely on private contributions and tickets for 80% of their operating expenses? You wouldn’t stand for it because you just like all of us, you pay taxes. And that’s what taxes are meant for.

    Why is funding fire protection any different? The reason they don’t fund more is because they “don’t get it” Some of it’s political and some of it’s ignorance.

    Should we even bring up the lack of enforceable fire prevention ordinances or the lack of fire marshall? I wonder why we only have 2 code enforcement people working in the most populated township in Chester County?

    • howard, that was not my suggestion at all. i think it is equally absurd to assume that the BOS would behave similarly.

    • OK, I promised myself that I wouldn’t jump into this again, but I thought that Howard has it exactly right.

      Yes, emergency services area municipal responsibility. Yes, the fire companies should not have to rely on private donations.

      So what’s wrong with this scenario:
      – The Township funds 100% of the expenses, net of all insurance company reimbursement (should be over half of expense?)
      – There is either a fee (per residence and/or per business) or a tax (based on property value), specifically dedicated to emergency services. [Common in other jurisdictions]
      – All time and cost spent on fund raising is eliminated
      – Residents pay only the fee/tax instead of a contribution
      – All beneficiaries of the services contribute to their cost
      – The company is treated just like all the other essential township services for budgeting, planning, financial management
      – Code enforcement and all related services are fully integrated

      Now, back the TESD tax increase, equal to half of the TOTAL township millage ……….

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