Pa. Firefighter Recommends Changes to Save Money

July 03--ALIQUIPPA -- The secretary/treasurer for the city firefighters' union presented letters Wednesday to city council detailing how the city could save money given an aging firefighter force.

Capt. Dave Childs presented the letters during a regular meeting, which detailed why a length-of-service requirement for retirement should be lowered from 25 years to 20 years. Firefighters say the change would bring long-term savings to the city.

Firefighters must currently serve 25 years before collecting a pension, Childs said.

"(T)here is no opportunity for youth to be injected into the staff for at least 10 years due to the current years-of-service requirement," the letter said.

The average age of current fire department staff is 46, according to the letter.

Among the benefits, the letter said the move would prevent costly, maximum vacation benefits from accruing. Insurance premiums should also be lower because younger firefighters would likely be single or healthier.

Capt. J.T. Pennington said the union currently has eight members.

In other news:

-- City officials recognized two patrolmen, Jon Cochran and Kenneth Watkins, for responding to a shooting at the American Serbian Club in May.

During the incident, a woman was shot in the arm, and Cochran applied arterial pressure to help keep her alive. Mayor Dwan Walker said the bullet hit a major artery, and she was bleeding out.

Ernest Genes, who spoke at the meeting, said the efforts saved his niece's life.

-- A meeting will be held with the state Department of Transportation at 10 a.m. July 17 at the city building to discuss repairs needed for a deteriorating Henry Mancini Memorial Bridge for West Aliquippa.

-- Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development money will pay for a pair of officers to patrol three public housing complexes during peak weekend hours.

The city had the program for years, but it did not occur in 2013 due to a communication issue, Police Chief Don Couch said.

Couch said he and Walker approached the Housing Authority of Beaver County at a meeting earlier this year, and within a week, a deal was made.

-- The city wants to create a citizen input committee to increase public participation for city affairs, such as union issues and taxes.

-- A large building at 580 Franklin Ave., across from city hall, will undergo an emergency demolition by Unis Demolition Co., city officials said. Walker said the roof collapsed into the third floor, which dropped onto the second floor.

Joe Askar, chief solicitor for Beaver County, said the emergency status expedited a bidding process.

-- Representatives of an outreach organization, the Christian Evangelistic Economic Group, discussed how they could provide help to the city at no cost.

Founder and chairman emeritus Ray Parker said the nonprofit has secured money on its own, and it has 200-plus clients in the Pittsburgh area and western Pennsylvania.

"The Franklin Avenue corridor would be a prime area to attempt to redevelop and renovate," Parker said.

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