London Grove chooses single-service fire and EMS for 202111/25/2020 10:10AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
After assessing separate financial proposals from two local fire and EMS departments for providing services to London Grove Township in 2021, the township’s Board of Supervisors voted in favor last week to establish a single-servic contract with the West Grove Fire Company for next year.
In the process, the township has chosen not to renew its contract with the Avondale Fire Department for 2021. As a result of the board’s decision, the township will save about $75,000 next year.
The decision to choose a single-service contract for its emergency services next year stemmed from the need for the township to explore cost-cutting measures during COVID-19, which has led to the layoffs and furloughs of many township residents and has consequently affected the township’s Earned Income Tax revenue – to the tune of a deficit between $400,000 and $500,000.
Township Manager Ken Battin said that moving to a single-service fire and EMS provider in 2021 is not only going to help make up that gap, but serve as the latest effort by the township to consolidate one of its key services. He pointed two other recent examples: Taking over the management of the Inniscrone Golf Club, and assuming management of the Municipal Authority in 2021.
“The next big ticket item on our list was emergency services,” Battin said. “One of the things we’ve been doing in the township over the last several years has been to consider methods of doing government better. How can we make what we do more cost effective and better for our community?”
While London Grove Township’s decision places full reliance on the West Grove Fire Company next year, it is a bottom-line blow to the Avondale Fire Company, whose projected to lose about $300,000 in revenue that used to come from the township in the form contributions to fire and EMS, its Relief Association and fund drive, and additional events held throughout the year.
“Our initial reaction was one of disappointment,” said Brandon Michaels, president and fire police captain at the Avondale Fire Company. “The Avondale Fire Company and its EMS division has served the residents and businesses of London Grove Township for many years, and will no longer be able to provide our services to them who are just a short distance from the fire house.”
As municipalities continue to streamline services in an effort to tighten their financial belts, London Grove’s decision to consolidate its fire and EMS services next year could be a sign of things to come.
“The current model of how fire companies serve communities in Chester County is broken, antiquated and not working,” said township supervisor David Connors, who has also been a key stakeholder in establishing an EMS council for southern Chester County.
“Sixty percent of out township is served by the West Grove Fire Company and 40 percent is served by the Avondale Fire Department. Geographically, it makes sense, but financially, you have so many duplications of services between these two houses. There has to be changes in place – whether it comes from the county or the state -- that will help these companies merge, consolidate their equipment, and reduce the probability of these redundancies from happening.
“Communities like London Grove can not just sit on the sidelines and hope for a miracle,” he added. “This is where the drastic action comes into play. We have to make decisions like this.”
Connors stressed that for now, the township’s exclusive contract with the West Grove Fire Company is for 2021 only.
“We’re going to review this again at the same time next year,” he said. “We’ll let Avondale resubmit a bid and address or concerns, and open up discussions up again.”
Michaels said that the Avondale Fire Department held an informational meeting on Nov. 23 that provided its membership with information about London Grove’s decision, and discussed potential cost-saving options that the company’s board of directors will continue to pursue.
“While this decision ultimately poses a large financial obstacle for 2021, we have every confidence that we will maintain our high level of service to our remaining contracted communities,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].