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Baldwin Council schedules public hearing to discuss fire service delivery

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 12:36 p.m.

A public hearing next month should help to dispel rumors concerning Baldwin Borough officials' plans for the future of fire service in the town — specifically that they want to close a fire company, leaders said Tuesday.

“We're trying to put a lot of these rumors to rest. We just want to get some good information out there,” borough Manager John Barrett said.

Borough council on Tuesday set a public hearing for Aug. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the municipal building, 3344 Churchview Ave., to discuss volunteer fire service delivery.

More than 100 residents attended Baldwin Borough's council meeting on Tuesday, many wanting to know what officials plan to do with fire service in the community. This was the third consecutive council meeting where a majority of volunteer firefighters from Option Independent Fire Company attended the meeting. Members of the borough's other two fire companies, Baldwin No. 1 and South Baldwin, also were present Tuesday.

Discussions have circulated the borough for weeks that municipal leaders plan to consolidate or close Option Independent, which is located in the center of the 5.5-square-mile town.

Baldwin Borough officials said they long have talked about consolidation between fire companies but there are no plans to close any fire company.

“We're not marching down the street with locks and chains and closing them down,” Barrett said.

Instead, there are talks of creating a north and south fire district, with two new stations, leaders have said. This has been a discussion long in the works and will require cooperation, Barrett said.

“We're not going to act swiftly. There's no plans to walk down to Option's fire hall and close it. Those are just simply not true,” Barrett said. “We want to lay out a strategy and get feedback on it.”

Option leaders, who held a public meeting in July, have stated they were told by Baldwin officials that they will be closed.

Signs in support of Option Independent line borough streets and petitions to save the fire company are circulating the town.

A legal battle also remains in the Orphans' Division of Allegheny County Common Pleas Court where the now-defunct Becks Run Independent Fire Company and Option Independent are seeking a merger of assets. Baldwin Borough leaders are seeking to have Becks Run's assets divided equally among the community's three remaining fire stations and the excess funds placed into a restricted fund to be used for future fire service needs in the town.

Representatives from all three fire companies, fire department experts and borough leaders will be present at the public hearing to discuss the borough's consolidation plan, Barrett said.

“We're just looking forward to getting the whole story out there,” Baldwin Independent Fire Company No. 1 deputy Chief Bill Connors said. “We've been working for years to get a more modern, up-to-date fire service in the borough. Merging will give us the opportunity to get the training, the new facilities.It's not losing a volunteer fire company. It's building for the future.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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