KENNETT SQUARE – Borough Council held a special meeting on Monday to consider a resolution that would lay the groundwork for withdrawing from the Kennett Regional Fire and Emergency Management Services Commission by the end of the year .
Councilor Kathleen Caccamo asked council to vote on the measure. His motion, however, was not seconded.
When no member of council showed up to support the motion, the audience breathed a collective sigh of relief, full of uniformed men and women representing the Kennett Square, Kennett Township and of the region.
Next, Councilman Bob Norris introduced a resolution asking the commission to adopt spending limits. The council voted unanimously “yes” to the measure.
Founded in 2017, the mission of the Kennett Regional Fire and Emergency Services Commission, an independent body, is to ease the burden on local government by providing for inter-municipal collaboration and the pooling of resources and funds municipalities for the provision of fire, rescue and emergency services.
The commission oversees six municipalities in Chester and Delaware counties, including Kennett Township, Kennett Square, East Marlborough, Newlin, Pennsbury and Pocopson.
The commission oversees local government support, critical to funding three beloved area fire departments, including the Longwood Fire Company, founded in 1921, in Kennett Township; Kennett Fire Company, founded in 1896 in Kennett Square; and Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company, which was first organized in 1840, in Unionville.
And while these historic and treasured fire companies have been around for generations, most people who serve the community today as firefighters are volunteers.
Over the past 40 years, the number of volunteer firefighters has declined by 89% in Pennsylvania.
According to the Office of the State Fire Marshal in Harrisburg, in the 1980s, on average, there were about 300,000 active firefighters statewide. Today there are less than 33,000.
To attract and support the volunteerism and heroism of local firefighters and emergency first responders, in February the Kennett Area Regional Fire and Emergency Management Services Commission voted 4 to 2 in favor of launching a new volunteer retention and recruitment plan.
Due to budget issues, Kennett Square Representatives Mayor Matt Fetick and Kennett Township Supervisor Scudder Stevens cast the only two “no” votes.
Yet the scheme, the first of its kind in Chester County, passed with commissioners Cuyler Walker of East Marlborough, Bennett Baird of Newlin, Aaron McIntyre of Pennsbury and Ray McKay of Pocopson all voting in favor of the measure.
“We want to stay on the commission,” Norris said. “We just have to have the means (to do it).”
The cost of being a firefighter has never been higher in Chester County, a place where gas prices are up more than 40% from a year ago. Additionally, the cost of living here is extremely high and rising, which has a direct impact on people earning $50,000 or less per year, for example, finding a good place to live that is both affordable and affordable. comfortable.
For volunteer firefighters, serving the community in 2022 not only means spending time away from home and family, but also spending hours in an unpaid role instead of working to earn more money or resting afterwards. a long day at work, like most people. do.
Instead, firefighters sacrifice so much of themselves to serve their communities, neighbors, strangers, and friends, it’s their calling. The essence of the good Samaritans among us, indeed.
“Our state and our government are not funding you at all,” Caccamo said Monday at the special meeting.
“We are at a crossroads here,” she said.
“Our problem is not with the fire department – our problem is with the commission.”
“While there are differing opinions among commissioners on how to handle this growth, the fact is that it places a substantial burden on each municipality when it comes to budgeting,” the supervisor of the council said Wednesday. Kennett Township, Scudder Stevens.
“The Borough of Kennett Square has thoughtfully and responsibly considered the financial burden it faces due to the demands of the commission’s needs and available options,” Stevens said.
“There are no simple, straightforward solutions available. And while the borough faces tough decisions, the other municipalities on the commission also face the same concerns. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the responsible efforts of the Borough Council to address this cost escalation issue,” Stevens said. “My thoughts are with the borough, as well as the other municipalities, as this escalation is dealt with.”
“The meeting has been called to consider our options for staying on or leaving the commission,” Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick said Tuesday.
“We believe regionalized emergency services have incredible value,” said the Mayor of Kennett Square. “All three (Fire Departments and EMS Squads within the commission) provide high quality emergency services to our community. We value and value volunteers and career firefighters and paramedics (and) paramedics paramedics.
The mayor said the resolution passed Tuesday was intended to show the borough’s commitment to the commission and the need to address rising costs and financial policies and procedures.
Fetick said the next steps are to “work with the commission to strengthen emergency services in our community and to ensure providers have the tools and resources they need while reaching agreement on the financial policies and procedures”.
The Mayor added, “Commission members have worked hard to design a regionalized approach to fire and EMS services. We truly value our municipal partners, just as we value our emergency service providers. And our goal is to continue our regionalized approach while ensuring long-term financial sustainability.
Cuyler Walker, of East Marlborough, is the chairman of the Commission.
“The commission is a critical venue for the six municipalities to collectively establish annual funding for the three volunteer fire companies serving the area,” Walker said Wednesday.
“Historically, each municipality has designated portions of its territory to the nearest fire station, which means that parts of municipalities are often served by more than one fire company and each fire company has often served several municipalities,” he said.
“The commission holds monthly meetings throughout the year, at which fire companies provide current operational and financial data and commission members can ask questions and request additional information,” Cuyler said.
“Working collaboratively through a unified entity such as the commission is the only comprehensive way for the six municipalities to annually assess overall regional funding needs and allocations,” he said.
Cuyler said the commission members are working together in good faith to address the needs and concerns of the six municipalities and their respective residents.
“I am confident that the Borough’s situation can be resolved by consensus, as other issues have been,” he said.
Monday’s special meeting was held at the new $9.89 million Kennett Square headquarters at 600 S. Broad Street.
During the meeting, several firefighters spoke in favor of continued support and participation in the regional commission for the management of emergency services and first responders.
Rick Franks, assistant fire chief for the Kennett Fire Company on Dalmatian Street, spoke directly to the borough council.
“The commission was formed just over six years ago by six municipalities that contracted a combination of fire and emergency EMS services from one of several Kennett area fire companies” , Franks said.
“The fact is that providing these services is expensive. It is expensive for many reasons, including equipment, training, supplies, fire and rescue apparatus, and many other things. However lucky municipalities are, these costs have been dramatically lower over the past few years for one reason, these costs have been reduced by countless dedicated volunteers,” Franks said.
“Just in the borough of Kennett, the Kennett Fire Company has 22 active employees. These volunteer members of your community save municipalities millions of dollars in taxes each year,” Franks said. “Even with dedicated volunteers who volunteer countless hours to run and maintain the service as well as respond to all calls for service, municipalities, including you, have been underfunding fire companies for decades. decades.”
AJ McCarthy, the Longwood Fire Company fire chief, told the Daily Local News on Tuesday that the area experiences about 1,000 to 1,200 fire and rescue incidents and about 3,000 EMS incidents a year.
“That number continues to grow,” McCarthy said.
“We too are fighting against rising costs and balancing budgets,” he told the borough council on Monday.
With a population of around 6,000, firefighters typically respond to fewer than 200 incidents in the borough each year, and EMS calls are much larger.
Three of the biggest fires to hit the region in the last 24 months include incidents in Victory, which brought more than 100 firefighters to the scene, in Kennett Square; the fire at the Savanno Bistro shopping complex in East Marlborough Township; a large residential fire on Sills Mill Road in Kennett Township.
The next meeting of commissioners will be July 12 at 5 p.m. in Pennsbury Township at 702 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford.