Township Supervisors Halt Funding to Sassamansville Fire Co.
Resolution Recognizes New Hanover Township Fire & Rescue Service
In their ongoing efforts to combine the command structure of fire services in New Hanover Township, officials passed a resolution at Monday night’s meeting that they hope will sway the members of Sassamansville Fire Company to reorganize with the New Hanover Fire Company into a single township-wide fire and rescue service.
The merged service comes as the result of a recommendation contained in a fire assessment study performed by Volunteer Fireman’s Insurance Services (VFIS) on how to most efficiently operate a township-wide fire and rescue system service. The township received a grant to perform the study, which was completed in 2010.
The plan would keep both fire stations but combine the command structure into a single chief and deputy chief.
In August 2012 supervisors adopted a resolution to combine the departments’ services. In September supervisors directed officials from both fire companies to begin meeting to review a draft of bylaws by the October supervisors meeting that would govern the newly formed, combined service and suggest changes or enhancements.
A six-member committee made up of three members from each company was assigned the task.
At the October meeting, New Hanover Chief Phil Agliano reported that his membership had given their committee members authority to approve the bylaws. Sassamansville Chief Ray Strickland said that the proposed bylaws were under review by his company’s members and that there could be change recommendations forthcoming.
The bylaws were completed just prior to the October meeting. However, there wasn’t time for supervisors to review them prior to that meeting or enough time for each company to present the document to their respective members. Supervisors held off any action on the merger until the November meeting, though most expressed their displeasure as the process continued to drag on.
At Monday night’s meeting, without approved fire service bylaws or an agreement in place, supervisors voted 3–1 to adopt a resolution that will cause the Sassamansville Fire Company to lose their primary response district.
Prior to the vote, township solicitor Paul Bauer told the board that supervisor Douglas Muller spoke to him earlier in the day and that Muller felt that the resolution “captured the consensus of the board.” Muller was not available to attend Monday’s meeting. Voting for the resolution were supervisors Martin Dyas, Andrew Kelly and David Brown. Voting against was Ralph Fluharty.
According to the resolution, the Sassamansville Fire Company will still be dispatched to emergencies but they will not have command and control of the scene and be regarded as a mutual aid company to the New Hanover Township Fire and Rescue Service.
Dyas emphasized that both companies will still be dispatched and residents “should not see any difference…we’re not going to let houses burn down. As far as response times, the board relies on Montgomery County Emergency Services statistics to help us with decisions.”
The resolution also states that Sassamansville Fire Company will forfeit all future township funding until they accept the decision of the board of supervisors to reorganize the fire departments and accept the recommendations of the joint bylaw committee.
To remedy the situation, the resolution states that once Sassamansville Fire Company achieves the goals of the resolution, they may seek reinstatement in the New Hanover Township Fire and Rescue Service at which time the company’s primary district and township funding will be reconsidered. However, “township funding will be contingent upon adherence to policy and direction of the Board of Supervisors” as well as guidelines established by the state to allocate any funds from the fireman’s relief tax.
Bauer stressed that this is only a “temporary resolution and once Sassamansville Fire Company achieves the goals of it, supervisors can modify or withdraw it.”