New Haven requests financial help from city

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 10:06 p.m.

Bob Topper officially requested Wednesday night that Connellsville City Council earmark a $60,000 line item in its budget every year to help fund operating expenses for the New Haven Hose Company, the city's volunteer fire department.

“This annual line item would help us make payments on the new fire truck, purchase necessary equipment in the future and continue to make mortgage payments at our fire station,” Topper said.

Topper, chief of the volunteer fire department, made the request in response to complaints that were expressed at last month's city council meeting.

Last month, council revised its allocation for 2013 Community Development Block Grant money after residents voiced their concerns about how the money would be spent.

Council originally planned to allocate $85,000 to the New Haven Hose Company for the purchase of a new $526,000 fire truck.

After city residents expressed their opinions during a public hearing, council changed its plan. Instead of allocating the entire $85,000 for the fire truck, council decided to spend $50,000 on building demolition and earmark $35,000 for the purchase of the fire truck.

Connellsville Mayor Charles Matthews and city council members said they would take Topper's $60,000 annual budget request into consideration.

Topper said he does not understand how the New Haven Hose Company has become a “political football” in Connellsville when the volunteer fire department has continued to save — not cost — the city money over the years.

“I wanted to come to the meeting to thank city council for last month's show of support,” Topper said. “New Haven Hose really appreciated your vote of confidence.”

Topper said the city has allocated a total of $1.48 million of its annual Community Development Block Grant funds over the years to supplement the efforts of both the city and New Haven Hose Fire Department “to ensure the safety of the community.”

During the past 27 years, Topper said the city's fire department received about $540,000 from CDGB money while New Haven Hose was allocated an estimated $939,000 out of a total of $20 million in CDBG funds since its inception.

Topper said he wanted to clear up inaccuracies and incomplete information that was presented during last month's public meeting.

Topper told the public that the Third Class City Code requires the city to provide fire service to its residents.

Connellsville operates a one-man fire department, and the sole firefighter is prohibited from driving the city's fire truck to respond to fires. As a result, Topper said the city relies on volunteer firefighters to keep its residents save.

“New Haven Hose actually saves Connellsville residents money on their home insurance because we're here to protect them in case of a fire,” Topper said. “Other municipalities raise taxes to benefit and outfit their fire departments. When you live in a city, you pay higher taxes to get these services.”

In a related matter, city council agreed to extend the fire department contract with the same terms and conditions for a period of one year, beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, and ending on Dec. 31, 2014.

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