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Board discusses fire company business, federal relief money


Special to The Press

Lynn supervisors discussed a variety of business items during their June 10 meeting.

Under subdivision items, the board approved a waiver for the Blue Mountain Mennonite Church and School, which wants to add several classrooms onto its existing building.

Township engineer Chris Noll said the main issues with sewage disposal and stormwater management concerns had been satisfactorily addressed.

He noted the school’s sewage system could handle 112 students but would only plan to have around 83 children.

For fire company reports, Assistant Chief Tim VanBlargan reported that Lynnport Fire Company answered 31 emergency calls for the year.

He said one firefighter has completed all four Mod classes and successfully completed his structural burn portion to become an interior firefighter.

VanBlargan said five other members have taken their Mod 1 classes and are taking Mod 2.

New Tripoli Fire Chief Gary Kuntz Jr. said his company has responded to 86 emergency calls to date and made note of several recent responses including a dwelling fire on Decatur Street, another in Weisenberg Township and a structure fire in West Penn Township.

For fundraising, Kuntz said tickets for the fifth annual Guns and Cash Bash are on sale, with the event taking place Oct. 2.

He also asked for permission for the fire police to attend the Aug. 24 Night in the Country event.

The board granted approval for fire police from both township companies to attend.

Kuntz also said he spoke with a resident recently about the use of a private pond during an emergency.

He said information received from the state fire commissioner’s office stated in an emergency firefighter have the right to access property even if a property owner refuses access.

Kuntz encouraged all residents to not only allow access but also work with fire companies to improve access to ponds, noting in areas without fire hydrants, such as in Lynn Township, ponds are used as water sources for fire suppression.

He said at the next regional meeting he would like to discuss improving access to ponds and adding more dry hydrants to the area.

Kuntz also encouraged residents to purchase and install reflective address markers, which he said is required by ordinance and helps fire companies find properties during emergencies.

He said signs are available at New Tripoli Fire Company by calling and dialing extension 307.

Furthermore, Kuntz said there is an ongoing issue in the town house development with people parking in front of fire hydrants.

He said it is crucial hydrants remain open at all times.

Chairman Justin Smith asked about what avenues the township has to address the issue.

Noll said the township could notify residents and put signs up.

Otherwise, fire companies would have to push cars out of the way.

“They’re putting themselves at risk, if they can’t access those hydrants,” Noll said.

Other discussion focused on whether the township had ordinance language about towing vehicles which obstruct hydrants, as well as about ticketing.

Supervisor Steve Feinour commended the firefighters for their work at the Decatur Street fire, noting the severe intensity of the blaze.

“I don’t think people realize how tough that is,” he said.

In a related motion, board members approved an ordinance which would authorize the declaration of an open burning ban by either the board of supervisors, mutual written consent of both fire chiefs, or one fire chief and one supervisor.

The board also approved the purchase of several pieces of equipment for Emergency Management Coordinator Phil Hobel, and during a discussion about purchasing a new radio, Roadmaster Bruce Raber asked about purchasing new portable radios for the road crew.

He said radios would be essential during roadwork activities and flagging, in winter conditions and during emergencies.

Raber added the crew’s existing radios are nonoperational.

Noll said Heidelberg Township is looking to upgrade its public works radios and the board agreed it would be beneficial for the road crew to have its own systems.

Raber and Kuntz said they would reach out to Heidelberg to collaborate and gather additional information.

Reading the park report, Smith said several more tables have been damaged or destroyed by vandalism.

Supervisors have been in contact with Pennsylvania State Police and filed a report.

Secretary Tammy White also noted that a new “Welcome to Ontelaunee Park” sign, which was purchased at a previous meeting, and been delivered and will be placed in a corner lot of the park between the stone pillars.

Board members also accepted the resignation of Michael Dietrich from the township planning commission.

Smith then said he wished to discuss the $462,000 in COVID-related funds which was allocated to Lynn Township under the American Rescue Plan.

He said one document would put some potential requirements on the township and asked Solicitor Marc Fisher for further information, adding the money did come with some caveats in terms of use.

Fisher said there is no issue with signing documents as a conditional receipt of the funds, noting they are standard forms for recipients of federal funds.

He also said the township will have until 2024 to earmark projects for the funds, which will need to be used by 2026.

Feinour came out in strong opposition to signing the paperwork and accepting the funds.

He said in the last eight years he has served on the board there has never been deficit spending or tax increases.

Feinour said now the township was being asked “to be a part of a deficit spending plan.

“We have not been hurt for $462,742.58. We didn’t feel that sort of pain here. How did they get that number?” he asked, adding he was not in favor of taking “one dime” of the funds.

Smith said there are different ways to look at the situation, adding if the township does not accept the funding, then residents who theoretically have paid taxes to the government will get no benefit, and the money would be taken by another municipality.

Feinour disagreed, saying he did not want to become part of the national debt problem.

After further discussion, a motion to sign the paperwork and accept the money was approved 2-1 with Smith and Supervisor Brian Dietrich voting “yes” and Feinour voting “no.”

Smith said he understood Feinour’s position, and the township would need to look carefully at how the money might be spent in the future.

The supervisors meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. July 8.

PRESS PHOTO BY SARIT LASCHINSKY Supervisor Brian Dietrich, Chairman Justin Smith and Supervisor Steve Feinour showcase the new “Welcome to Ontelaunee Park” sign which will soon be erected between a pair of stone pillars near the park.