Whitehall Will Charge Other Communities—Mostly Brentwood—to Use its Firefighters

The Whitehall Borough Council approved the measure, 6-0, on Wednesday night.

Acting in what Whitehall Borough Public Safety Committee Chair Robert McKown said is in the best interest of its taxpayers, the Whitehall Council approved a policy on Wednesday night that calls for other municipalities to pay for Whitehall Fire Company service should they need it—but not in all cases.

Up until the policy was passed on Wednesday by a 6-0 vote—Councilman Harold Berkoben was absent—Whitehall's volunteer fire company would always respond to emergencies in neighboring municipalities free of charge when those municipalities' fire companies either needed help or were not able to respond themselves at all.

But now, in cases when two specific things both occur—(1) Whitehall Fire is the primary responder for another municipality and (2) the emergency happens during regular weekday hours (between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.)—Whitehall would charge the other municipality for its service.

In accordance with a statewide mutual aid agreement, Whitehall will continue to not charge for emergency service (no matter what time of day) when it is a secondary responder to an incident. For example, should Whitehall's firefighters go to an incident in Brentwood Borough on a Monday at noon to assist's Brentwood's already-present firefighters, there would be no charge.

Whitehall will also continue to not charge for emergency service when that service is called for on weekends or during evening hours—even when Whitehall is the primary responder—since that service does not disrupt normal weekday work within Whitehall.

Why? It's because multiple Whitehall firefighters also work for the borough's Public Works department, and emergencies during evenings and on weekends do not interfere with the firefighters' normal weekday Public Works schedule.

Weekday emergencies between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., however, do interfere with those Public Works hours, and Whitehall would charge neighboring municipalities $150 mobilization fees in those instances, as well as $40 per hour fees for each responding firefighter who is also an on-duty borough employee.

"For a year now, we did some analysis on the number of (Whitehall) fire calls," McKown said. "There happened to be 31 in Brentwood. Nineteen of those 31 happened to be during working hours.

"So, (Whitehall firefighters) are leaving their duties here in the borough as road crew and going to respond to these fires.

"If they're off their duties here at Public Works, then we need to be reimbursed for those costs because those gentlemen are being paid (during work hours) whether they're doing Public Works or fire calls."

No one is paid to be a firefighter-only in Whitehall, McKown confirmed in an interview after Wednesday's council meeting, but multiple Whitehall firefighters do hold paid jobs on the borough's Public Works staff.

"Essentially, that's our paid (fire) force," McKown said.

Fellow Whitehall Councilman Philip Lahr, a longtime fireman, was empathetic to other neighboring volunteer fire companies' recruiting challenges, particularly in Brentwood, but still supported Whitehall's new policy.

"I really believe that we have to move forward," Lahr said, "because we've been on many calls where we were the only ones there.

"They (Brentwood Volunteer Fire Company) have difficulty at times, and it's sad that they have that. They were the 'mother' company for Whitehall when Whitehall first started (fire service) in 1946, so it's difficult to pull that out. But they have to be able to figure out a way to solve that."

Whitehall Councilwoman Kathleen N. DePuy pointed out that, should the current trend of fire calls remain the same over the next year, Brentwood would only be on the hook for around $5,000 in Whitehall reimbursement.

"Does that solve anything?" DePuy asked before eventually agreeing to the new policy. "Is that going to force Brentwood into doing anything? That's a cheap outlet for them. Are we going to be creating a problem in the long run?"

McKown responded.

"At this point, we don't know," he said. "This is new ground. This is a new venture. Until we see how this works, and if it gets to a point where they don't bother calling their fire department out at all and relying on us, then maybe we do need to revisit the fees and start charging (more).

"We didn't want to be detrimental. We wanted to make sure we covered our cost and, at least, make them aware that this is an issue that has to be addressed.

"This might be the very first beginning of either a paid fire department or the consolidation of fire departments."

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old man October 25, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Once again I am tired of the bashing of Brentwood Fire Dept. All dept's have the same expenses incurred with running a fire dept. There was a time when fire depts helped each other willingly, I guess those time have changed with one fire dept. The only person talking like a FOOL is you. If you are going to call people FOOLS and bad mouth people, why not have the GUTS to identify yourself. And as for Brentwood and their station, they not Brentwood Boro are paying a mo making themonthly mortgage payment. And as for a new Pumper, it replaces one that is 31 years old. As I have said there are many fire depts, that are willing to come and help Brentwood and not even give a thought to asking for payment. Also one thing that I can't understand is how is a fire station only used half of the year. You are the one talking like a FOOL. I have a suggestion PUT YOUR BRAIN IN GEAR BEFORE RUNNING YOUR BIG MOUTH. YOU HAVE A GREAT DAY
cc October 25, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Rigatoni, from what I understood it was our men on our fire trucks that responded to Brentwood for all of these incidents as Brentwood never dispatched a truck. We Whitehall residents are paying the salaries of everyone on the truck, not just the Fire Chief that responded. The Fire Chief and men are on work time when they are responding to Brentwood and doesn't matter if they are fixing roads or cutting grass. They are on the time clock responding to another Community and Whitehall should be reimbursed for all of the man power, after all it is my taxes and other residents that are paying for them to cut grass or fix roads.
old man October 26, 2012 at 12:40 AM
You know what if this is how chicken s--t the money hungry Whitehall council want's to be then so be it. Maybe Whitehall boro has gotten to big for it's own good.
FF19 October 26, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Jerome- I believe I got the same post as you via email. However, I believe Robert Healy did not post it to be viewed as it was laced with profanity which was a wise decision. I would also like that person to identify themselves to me so I can discuss the matter with them. As I stated before and even though I back them, this matter Whitehall Council should have been handled differently before a vote was taken. It has created uneccessary hard feelings. I will state that your Borough should support you more.
Watcher October 27, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Wow , you people really went off track, I see it as jealousy. Whitehall Boro has A system that guarantees coverage. Brentwood DOES NOT! So, how could you expect to use Whitehalls personnell without having to reimburse them? Brentwood boro gives the fire company tens of thousands of dollars but does not ask for A guarentee of service. If someones house on Brownsville road catch fire at say, 11 in the morning, God forbid somebody trapped, Brentwood just hopes someone else will come because they dont want to pay A few bucks for guarenteed fire response? So what do you tell the family about there losing there house or possibly A loved one Brentwood firefighters? Well?


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