Home Rule charter change vital to BFVFC

Published Mar 6, 2013 at 11:09 am (Updated Mar 6, 2013 at 11:09 am)

Residents of Bethel Park are being made aware of a referendum that will appear on the May 21 ballot, creating a .34 millage dedicated to the operation of the buildings and maintenance of the Bethel Park Volunteer Fire Company (BPVFC).

Residents live in Bethel Park for a number of reasons. Suburban living, the excellent school system, access to a Community Center, one of the safest communities in PA, and the list goes on. Emergency services are certainly a major consideration.

The BPVFC recognized several years ago that our single source of funding, donations, was diminishing, and our main fire station was eventually going to need replaced. Unlike other emergency services, we are not funded by subscriptions, insurance reimbursements or local municipal taxes. For 87 years, the fire company has managed to sustain itself solely with donations from the residents and businesses of Bethel Park. As of 2012, less than 30 percent of the residents and less than 15 percent of the businesses of Bethel Park donate to the fire company.

The executive leaders of the fire company recognized that changes were necessary in order for the fire company to continue as a volunteer organization, and at minimal cost to the residents and businesses of Bethel Park. To continue with only donations was not going to properly fund the daily expenses of the fire company and address the building situation. Every level of government, from the Federal level on down, was approached, with the fire company seeking a solution to our funding dilemma. Although genuinely concerned, the higher levels of government turned us away and back to our local government for solutions.

In 2009, we began holding regular meetings with the Bethel Park municipal council. We continue to have these meetings, and have provided council with a complete record of our operation. As municipal leaders, they recognized the fire company was going to need dedicated funding to continue its operations. After examining every option, the best solution was amending the Home Rule charter. This would allow the fire company to be properly funded for the operation for the fire stations and allow the firefighters to focus on training, recruitment and protecting the public.

On May 21, the residents will be asked to vote on changing the Home Rule charter, and allow for a .34 millage to fund the buildings and maintenance of the fire stations. This equates to a $34 tax for every $100,000 of building value based on the county assessment. By changing the Home Rule charter, future council members would also have to go on the ballot to make changes to the funding of the fire company. This allows the people to decide and keeps politics out of the fire service.

At 7 p.m. March 7, the fire company is holding its first public meeting at the Brightwood Fire Station on Brightwood Road. If you would like to get a better understanding of the operations of the fire station, and be better informed on the importance of voting YES for the change to the Home Rule charter, we encourage you to attend.

Edward Schmidt

Recording Secretary

Bethel Park Vol. Fire Co.

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