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Chief previews Goodwill Fire Company budget


Special to The Press

Before giving his monthly report, Germansville Fire Chief Jay Scheffler gave a brief rundown of the fire company’s 2022 budget during the Sept. 16 Heidelberg Township board meeting.

He said the biggest item included in the budget sheet was a $45,000 allocation for future apparatus replacement.

Scheffler said while it “sounds crazy,” the New Tripoli Fire Company just purchased a tanker for more than $600,000.

“Unfortunately that’s a true fact,” Scheffler said. “We need to save that amount of money,”

He told the board Germansville’s tanker is almost 20 years old and will be in line for replacement in the near future.

Additional major items included a $27,000 annual repayment for the fire company’s current truck loan, $23,000 for maintenance and equipment testing, and $21,000 for a second backup set of turnout gear for all fire team members.

Scheffler explained turnout gear has an expiration date after 10 years.

Furthermore, the fire company was budgeting $19,500 for new equipment and medical supplies, as the fire company runs medical calls and tries to get reimbursed by the ambulance corps for their services.

Additionally, Scheffler said the company’s building insurance came to $17,300, as the structure was assessed at nearly $3 million.

He also reviewed other budget items including paid staff allocations, subscriptions and communications services, capital and building improvements, heating oil and propane, and more.

Supervisor David Fink asked what percentage of administrative wages and items qualify for fire tax funds, noting many budget items are specific to the fire company building.

Scheffler said half the wages would qualify for these funds, along with items such as generator and elevator maintenance, or phone connection costs since they are used by the company’s members.

“Big money but unfortunately it is what it is,” Scheffler said after finishing his budgetary rundown, “it’s not a cheap business.”

Turning to his regular report, Scheffler said the fire company would be losing one of its top members, Lt. Evan Karpyn, for the next six months as he will leave for basic training with the National Guard.

Scheffler said Karpyn will be pursuing combat medic training and might return to pick up a job with Northern Valley EMS or as a professional firefighter.

Regarding recent heavy storms and the remnants of Hurricane Ida, Scheffler said the storms led to 12 pump-outs and one water rescue, but fire company members performed well.

He also told supervisors the fire company’s downstairs offices have been completed, and there will be an open house at the end of October.

Scheffler said the lower engine bays at the fire company have been finished and thanked the township and public works team for allowing the fire company to temporarily house several trucks at the township building and potato storage building.

“It’s a good working relationship we have,” Scheffler said. “We’d do the same for you guys.”

In the ambulance report, NOVA liaison Dianne Huber said at a recent NOVA roundtable meeting, a representative from the EMS Council discussed personnel shortages being experienced by ambulance services, fire companies, dispatchers, hospitals and other organizations.

Huber said NOVA needs two EMTs and two full-time paramedics.

She noted the ambulance service has stopped holding classes or allowing volunteers to go on runs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the ambulance service is trying to give incentives, such as bonus and overtime incentives, and also put its retirement program in effect sooner than normal to attract additional members.

Regarding payments, Huber said NOVA had raised its service rates, but Medicare and Medicaid have seen major drops in payments.

She told the board that on a $1,000 bill, NOVA will now only get $300 from Medicaid and only $460 from Medicare.

“So they’re not getting anything close to covering their expenses for what they’re doing in a unit,” she explained.

Huber said that last year, NOVA had to write off around $498,000 but overall she classified NOVA as “on an even keel, not in the red but not high in income either.”

In other matters, Huber said the roundtable meeting had also recognized Marie Dean who served as president of the NOVA Auxiliary for more than 45 years, and in those years the auxiliary donated more than $1 million to the ambulance service.

Huber said NOVA will need to replace its radios in the near future, saying units currently have to switch to different radios when traveling between counties.

The upgrade costs will likely be around $88,000, she explained.

Scheffler said the fire chiefs’ association in Lehigh County is working closely with their communications center about which direction to go with their future radio system upgrades.

Scheffler called the upgrades a “huge expense” to both fire companies and EMS services.

Huber reported that from January to June, NOVA responded to 120 calls in Heidelberg Township.

Board Chairman Steve Bachman reported the service handled 22 calls in August.

Later on in her report, township Administrator Janice Meyers noted Heidelberg’s contract with NOVA runs out this year and will need to be renegotiated.

She said the township annually contributes $25,000 to NOVA, along with $300 toward the ambulance services’ vehicle insurance.