Digital Reporter – Jeff Bohen
The Bristol Borough Council voted to table a planned allocations for four Bristol Fire Companies at Monday nights agenda meeting.
Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe said the agenda item was tabled due to the numbers involving the actual dollar amounts of the funding being incorrect.
The tabling of the agenda item, was a main topic of discussion throughout the entire meeting beginning with the public comment section, when Bristol resident Ken Bixler, asked for further clarification of the funding model – going to four fire companies instead of five.
Discussion ensued, highlighting the many issues from all sides involving the fire companies providing services to the borough. The essential contention is about the fire station in the east ward, which, depending on who is speaking, houses 1 or 2 fire companies.
Based upon the council agenda, one company was not going to be funded which concerned Councilman Gregg Pezza. American Hose Hook & Ladder Company 2 station 25/53 resides in the councilman’s ward .
Pezza said America Hose, Hook & Ladder Company 2 Station 25/53 (AHHL) is the only station that’s actually consolidated over the years in the spirit of plans to consolidate all of the borough fire companies under one funding source.
Borough Fire Chief, Herb Slack, said, according to Internal Revenue Service filings he reviewed, the total number of members part for AHHL reflected only one active member for one of the two companies housed in the station, therefore, the funding allocation should go to four companies not five. Slack added, the member numbers of the separate companies were around 25 and 1, according to those federal fillings, he read.
AHHL Fire Chief, Christopher Reed disputed Slack’s claim, saying the fire company officials have no idea where Slack was getting his member numbers from.
In a text exchange Tuesday morning, Reed said “a rough total of running active members for station 53 is 22 and station 25 has roughly 25 members. Adding those numbers don’t include lifetime members who are no longer actively fighting fires.
The funding issue and whether to move forward with a consolidation plan has been had a on again, off again issue for years now, said Mayor Joseph Saxon but now with volunteerism down significantly locally and nationally, Saxon said he was “absolutely” in support of a plan to consolidate all the borough fire stations.
“There are three parts to this,” Saxon said, “council, zoning, and the fire companies.” In order for any consolidation plan to work, those three elements need to be on the same page, the Bristol Mayor observed.
Reed said both stations housed on Farragut avenue would be 100 percent in favor of another consolidation.
DiGuiseppe closed the discussion on the topic saying it was his “plan” to have everyone leave the ‘room happy” with a vote on a consolidation in July
In other matters, Council approved the hiring Rosie Torres for to the part-time position of code enforcement officer by a 6 to 3 vote.
Councilmen Tony Riccio (West Ward), Tony Devine, and David Girard ( North Ward) voted against.
Torres a nurse, and a volunteer fire woman, at Bristol Company 51 was the only applicant for the part- time position, officials said. And with the recent departure of Kevin Brannigan “a backlog of work” has occurred, said Council Vice President Betty Rodriguez.
Devine asked aloud, why was the borough in such a rush. Didn’t we make this mistake the last time?
Additionally Devine objected to hiring Torres claiming she had broken HIPPA protocol by sharing private medical information about his father- in- law.
Torres denied the claim, and appeared at the meeting as it was closing. A confrontation took place between the two, that was defused by officials on hand.
Rodriguez seconded the original motion for Torres to be hired.