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Baldwin Boro Council Reviews Firefighters' Funding

'Right now, we really don't know (how the funds are spent).' - borough Manager John Barrett

Less than three weeks after the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office charged two Baldwin Borough firemen with misusing approximately $25,000 from the Pennsylvania firemen's relief fund, the Baldwin Borough Council has begun discussing new auditing practices for its four fire companies.

Though no specific mention was made during Tuesday night's council meeting of the embezzlement charges facing the chief and deputy chief of the , the council members' discussion centered around preventing just such alleged fraud from happening again.

During his administrative report, Baldwin Manager John Barrett suggested ways that borough administration could "better safeguard those public funds, or at least, try to have some level of accountability that might not be there right now."

Barrett said that borough officials typically transfer over the state funding every year directly to the Firemen's Relief Association, which then splits it among the fire companies. But after that, Barrett said, borough officials aren't made fully aware of how and why each company spends its allocation.

To remedy that, Barrett suggested having officials from each company turn in periodic budgets before receiving relief funds. He also suggested having borough administration actually write checks on behalf of each company and then debit the companies' accounts accordingly.

"We could pull up actual invoices and vendor checks and say, 'This is where those funds went,'" Barrett explained.

Another safeguard, Barrett said, would be to have third-party audits done of the fire companies every year. Those audits could be combined with either or both of the previously mentioned safeguards.

"Right now, we really don't know (how the funds are spent)," Barrett said, mentioning that the fire companies are required to provide only year-end expenses reports, which are often lacking in details.

Council Vice President Michael Stelmasczyk said that he liked all of Barrett's ideas while also suggesting that the costs associated with third-party audits should come out of the relief fund.

As for what the council will ultimately decide, check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch for updates.

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Jon Wain September 12, 2012 at 11:47 PM
the fire companies don't need to worry about answering to council every time they spend money.they need to police their men and women who handle money better.audits are the way to go.
Michael Stelmasczyk September 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Jon - For one thing, the money that was misused was State money that is given by the State to the VFDs through the VFD Relief Association. The Relief Association is controlled by members of the VFDs. Those funds are audited by the State Auditor General's office, currently Jack Wagner's position. Why the State Auditor General's office did not catch this problem is under investigation by Wagner's office. You are entitled to your opinion even if it is to basically leave the flawed, existing system in place and expect the State audit to find a problem that it missed in the past over at least a 5 year period or more. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not something I think is advisable. Something that will keep this from happening in the future is called for.
JB September 13, 2012 at 04:59 PM
I am not sure what Mr. Barret is proposing is legal. According to the state, all monies received by the municipality for the relief association must be distributed within 60 days of receipt, and no later than Dec. 1st. Also, it is the job of the Auditor General to audit All relief associations in the state. While I agree that something needs to prevent this from happening in the future, I believe the solution proposed is not what should be done.
Simon Arnold September 13, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Maybe after this audit you can do the GBWAA. Hundreds of kids sign up to play in the spring and sponsors pay money to the league and people buy concessions, which probably totals over $25,000 a year. Fall ball brings in around another $10,000. So where does the money go? Not new equipment or improving the fields. There needs to be an audit.
cc September 14, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Simon do you know what it cost for uniforms for a team of players. Do you know what it cost for 2 real umpires for a game? How many fields do they use for Baseball for GBWAA. The food for the concession stands has to be purchased and they don't make what you think they do off the stands. The Older players that they have umpire the younger children get paid 15 a game and when they get into Championships it is 2 umpires they pay for. They also have to pay for Utilities for the stands and fields for night games. If you want to look at GBWAA books they will gladly show them to you.. Plus their is a lot of theft in the concession stands at the fields , parents when they work in them feed their families for free. Go to a meeting for GBWAA and ask to see the budget and ask where money goes. They are lucky they break even just as any Community Sport does.
Simon Arnold September 14, 2012 at 12:49 PM
cc - From what I have heard, the uniforms are paid for by the sponsors and the utilities by the borough. Umpires are only for the older leagues, so simple math would say that even if you have 40 teams playing 20 games that is 400 games (800/2 teams per game). That is only $6,000 for umpires, and as I said before the equipment is old and the fields are maintained by the coaches, except for lawn mowing (paid for by the boro again). GBWAA buys new baseballs and some limited materials (chalk and drying materials for rain) so you can play the games. So total outlays are somewhat less than $10,000. Again...where is the money going?
cc September 14, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Simon Umpires are not for only the older leagues. Every year the kids who are on Pony League are asked if they want to umpire the little kids games and they get paid 15 per game. When they are in Playoffs they have 2 umpires in the games. Your way of figuring it out they are paying 2 professional umpires 7.50 per game.
Simon Arnold September 14, 2012 at 02:48 PM
cc - Regardless of how many umpires are used it doesn't add up to the thousands of dollars in extra revenue that I am questioning. Why are league fees so high, especially in fall ball ($60) when you play only ten games? With 100+ kids playing baseball that is a minimum of $6,000 in fees (not including the fees from softball). There is no new equipment for the kids, only baseballs. Again, where is the money going? Not even half of that money can possibly be invested back into the league, unless they are now paying the umpires $100 per game! Are the league fees kept high to exclude certain kids???
cc September 14, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Simon I would suggest you go to a GWBAA meeting and ask them to show you the books so you can go over them with a fine tooth comb to see where the money goes. I'm sure you would be surprised at the money it cost to run baseball and softball leagues, maintain the fields besides cutting grass. Stocking the concession stands with food that some of the parents feel that they should feed their own family for free since they are working in the stand for a game. If any business donates 500, they can get their name on a team uniform. A uniform runs the league about 40-50 per player and at 100 children that will run the league around 4,000 to 5,000. Plus they buy hats and shirts for the coaches. The league also provides the equipment for the Umpires to use for Rookie and Minor League. Then you have the girls playing softball and they have the same expenses as the boys. Here is pay scale for Umpires Rookie- $15 per game (1 umpire) Playoffs 2 Umpires 15 or 30 per game Minor- $15 per game (2 umpires) $30 per game Major- $30 per game (2 umpires) $60 per game Pony $40 per umpire (2 umpires) $80 per game Colt $45 per umpire (2 umpires) $90 per game
Simon Arnold September 14, 2012 at 04:44 PM
cc - I'm sure there are expenses that I missed, but I'm also sure they don't add up to the several thousand in revenue I question. Rather than a single person like me go to a meeting and be black-balled by the GBWAA committee, why don't they (the committee) step up and release the league's financials on the GBWAA website and show they have nothing to hide.
cc September 14, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Simon, GBWAA doesn't do a very good job of keeping their website up to date like other leagues do.
cc September 14, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Simon I just talked to my neighbor who is on the Board of GBWAA, and they have to pay for the lights at the field plus the electric for the concession stands. He said if you want to see the budget you can give any member a call and they can make arrangements for you to see it. He also invited you to come to meetings to look at the budget, since they are always open to suggestions from parents that think they can run the league better and save the league money. Plus he says they can sure use someone to update the GBWAA website.
10-4GB September 17, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Consolidate the multiple firehouses into 2, one for north and one for south Baldwin. Make them have a treasurer, who shares a quarterly report with council.
bd September 17, 2012 at 04:45 PM
RM - How would this solve the problem? Wasn't one of the people charged the secretary/treasuruer of Becks Run? Couldn't this same thing happen on a larger scale?
10-4GB September 17, 2012 at 04:56 PM
This would solve the problem by eliminating some "chiefs" and having more "Indians". Also, if they report this quarterly to the borough then the borough can trace the funds like Mr. Barrett wants.
Bob Jones September 17, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Triple or more signatures!!! Come on people, it's not rocket science! Man, No wonder all the VFD's are working with 20+ year and older pieces of sh** equipment! But we gotta just make due! Really shakin' my head and questioning.....
Bob Jones September 17, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Why do all the ones who try to justify the expenditures have screen names like bbn, cc,dd,ee etc? Hiding???
cc September 18, 2012 at 12:46 AM
why is that your using 20+ year equipment, because someone stole from the fire department and need to go sit in jail.
cc September 18, 2012 at 12:47 AM
and were to believe that bob jones is your real name.
Bob Jones September 18, 2012 at 02:15 AM
At least I put it out there. I get that a lot!
Jon Wain September 18, 2012 at 02:30 AM
operating out of two stations is a move backwards.close option station then the firemen from that area have to travel further to man the trucks.trucks that would be gone to the call already cause closer personel boarded them and left.the facilities at south baldwin and churchview are simply not suited for more trucks.the fire service should never be knocked backwards.two chiefs over seeing two stations each may not be a bad idea.

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