Firefighters Oppose Reduction in Funding

Editor, News-Register:

The Bethlehem Fire Department Incorporated is a private, nonprofit corporation that has been serving the Village of Bethlehem since 1930. The Fire Department is owned by village residents who purchase shares of stock and operated by a Board of Directors.

Partial funding for the Fire Department comes from the utility tax that each village resident and business owner pays. Back in 1975, the Village Council decided to replace a fire service fee with the utility tax to help fund the Fire Department. Since 1975, every Bethlehem Village mayor and council has provided the Fire Department with 62 percent of the utility tax collected.

At the last Village Council meeting, the mayor and council discussed reasons to reduce the Fire Department’s utility tax funding.

The Fire Department strongly opposes any utility tax funding cut by the mayor and council, which will impact the fire and ambulance services that the village residents have come to expect for 87 years.

The Fire Department maintains the highest quality of equipment in order to be prepared for emergencies which are seen in the two fire trucks and ambulance. The Fire Department recently spent over $500,000 for a new fire truck. This purchase was required in order to maintain compliance with the National Fire Protection Association standards based on the land area size and population of the Village of Bethlehem. Maintaining our equipment to current standards also allows every village resident and business owner to pay lower premiums on their insurance rates for their homes or business.

Any village funding cuts will limit our ability to maintain our equipment and services that could result in higher home or business owners’ insurance premiums for every village resident.

The Fire Department is currently working with an architect on designs to either build a new fire station or remodel our existing building at a cost of $1 million to $3 million. This is necessary due to the inadequate size of our garages that house the fire trucks and ambulance, plus being able to update to current building specifications. Again, any funding cuts will prohibit the Fire Department from modernizing our facility

Bethlehem Fire Department appreciates that the village residents pay the utility tax that has been in effect for over 42 years. This has allowed the Fire Department to be financially stable. The Fire Department spends the money it receives on operational cost, equipment, training, personal protective equipment, and ambulance supplies which recently included $44,000 for a new cardiac monitor and defibrillator. We have in the past met with the mayor and council and discussed our budget and upcoming expenses.

It is our honor to serve the Village of Bethlehem. We encourage the residents to reach out to the mayor at 304-233-9527 or their councilperson and voice their opinion that they do not want a funding cut to the Fire Department. Village residents are always welcome to stop by the Fire Department and ask any questions. We appreciate the opportunity to respond to the mayor and council’s comments.

George P. Saseen, President

Bethlehem Fire Department