Representatives from the Lehigh Township Volunteer Fire Company attended the March 9 meeting of the Lehigh Township Supervisors to clarify their need for new equipment and to address statements made by the board at last month’s meeting. A representative from the fire company took issue with the comment about a million dollars being spent on the fire department, saying that “a lot of inappropriate comments were made when we weren’t here to defend ourselves.” Chairperson Cindy Miller defended the comment, reiterating that about a million dollars were spent over the course of five years.
Miller explained the capital improvement plan and funding of the department considering the Covid-19 crisis.
“Because of Covid, we stopped every department from spending capital in 2020,” Miller said.
She stated that save for the Public Works Department, which put in a request for a new truck in January 2020, prior to the pandemic, all non-budget spending was pushed forward a year. The $139,000 that had previously been earmarked for last year will go to the fire department this year. The fire company members decried lack of communication between their department and the board when asked why they didn’t attend budget meetings.
“There is no way the township can afford 2.4 million for two pieces of equipment. So, now we have to see what we can do,” Miller said.
“We only have one fire truck in Lehigh Township. We have more than one police car. We have more than one dump truck, but only one [fire] engine,” Roger Spadt, of Lehigh Township Fire Department, said.
The idea of a dedicated tax, around one mill, to support the fire company was floated by some members of the department. They claimed that citizens would support it because they would see tangible results. When asked by Miller about the potential of joining departments into a regional model, fire company members responded that they would hate to see their well-ran department reduced by spreading out its personnel and equipment. They said that they are already sharing equipment with area departments and that they are as small as they can get.
The board decided to table the question of putting out bids for replacing their 1998 fire engine until they could investigate the issue more.
“We want to come to you with the right answer and move forward,” Miller said to the gathered fire company members. “We just want you to understand that we do appreciate the fire company,” she continued.
In other business, a revised plan was received for the township’s maintenance building. A motion was made and passed to approve the plan. Bids came back for stream bank restoration at Indian Trail Park and a bid was accepted for $123,665 from Brightfields, Inc.
The board also decided to open the municipal building and discontinue the call-in option for the general public. The township began call-in meetings for residents at the beginning of the pandemic.
The next Lehigh Township Supervisors meetings will be held on March 23 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building.