Hempfield creates citizens task force to help with fire department changes | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Hempfield creates citizens task force to help with fire department changes

Megan Tomasic
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Tribune-Review file photo

A five-person citizens task force will soon help Hempfield officials make important decisions for fire and emergency management services.

With several big decisions on the horizon in regard to the township’s 12 fire departments, the committee will be tasked with studying policy, discussing funding, examining coverage areas and reviewing the number of volunteer firefighters at each station. Supervisors this week voted unanimously to form the committee.

“We have a bigger picture here in the fire service to talk about in the next year and a half,” Supervisor Tom Logan said. “So I expect (the task force) to be involved in making those decisions or giving some input in those decisions.”

To aid in that bigger picture, supervisors are looking to create a comprehensive plan based on a 2018 gap study that identifies potential issues for the departments.

The study identifies several issues officials need to focus on, including an overhaul of the management plan for resources, recruiting volunteers to combat an aging force and evaluating the structure of the Bureau of Fire that was created in 2016.

“The goal then was to create a comprehensive plan from it,” Township Manager Jason Winters said. “Do we need to build new fire stations, do we need to relocate some, (are) there areas of the township … not covered adequately? So that’s what the comprehensive plan was going to move into next.”

Supervisors hope to have a comprehensive plan by the end of the year.

Changes to the groundwork for an upcoming Insurance Service Office rating have supervisors wanting to look at command structure, water supply and training. The ISO rating scores area stations and can impact the cost of insurance for individuals, homeowners and businesses.

Hempfield supervisors asked for a six-month extension for the ISO rating to evaluate changes made to the rating and to look at how the 12 departments line up with those changes. Winters said the extension has “more or less been granted already,” giving officials until October or November to make changes.

“With the change in the parameters of their scoring, it is absolutely prudent that we move forward with this as quickly as possible,” Supervisor Doug Weimer said.

The committee will give input on decisions made for the comprehensive plan and ISO rating, with the goal of giving residents a voice on important issues.

Hempfield residents who are not involved with the fire service will make up the five-person committee, Winters said. Members can have a fire service-related background.

Details have not been established for how people will be recommended for the committee, Winters said, adding, “I’m sure the supervisors have people in mind.”

Winters and Anthony Kovacic, director of fire and EMS for the township, will sit on the board but will not vote on decisions.

Terms for the committee will start when supervisors appoint members within the next few months and will run through Dec. 31, 2020.

“I think it’s an opportunity for us, it’s just an opportunity to access our community and get them more involved in something,” Supervisor Rob Ritson said. “I don’t have any issue with this.”

The implementation of the citizens task force comes a month after a proposed public safety commission was halted in a 3-2 vote. The goal of the commission, which was proposed in January, was to make recommendations regarding public safety policy and service levels and present them to supervisors.

The body, which would be made up of residents from specific fields, would include the Bureau of Fire and a state police representative, since Hempfield doesn’t have its own police department.

Supervisors John Silvis, Weimer and Logan voted against the commission, adding that they would hash out further details during the March workshop and public meeting. But the public safety commission has been pushed back until officials can implement new fire policies.

“There was controversy last month when we voted 3-2 to turn down the public safety commission,” Silvis said. “Come a year and a half, we can look at that public safety commission again. But I think Tom (Logan’s) right, some more cautious, I hate to use the word conservative, approach to get to where we want to go.”

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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