The New Hope Eagle Fire Company in New Hope was the main subject at the Feb. 19 meeting of the New Hope Borough Council.
Keith McMillen, president of the fire company addressed the board, emphasizing that volunteer company age is averaging over 40. He added that growth rate trend lines of incidents indicate an increase of 54 percent since 1995 and 29 percent since 2013. A start-to-collapse rate of 20 minutes has also decreased dramatically to as little as six minutes, which McMillen attributed to newer construction with fires that “are burning hotter, faster and more dangerous.”
New Hope was the first fire company in the county and is currently enjoying its 200-year anniversary. Based upon 2016 call volume statistics to Bucks County fire companies, New Hope Eagle is the 17th busiest of 62, especially significant since it ranks among the less rural cities that generally trend lower, McMillen stated.
He stated that Eagle is “rolling strong” with 29 active fire fighters including 10 active junior members and “a great relationship” with Solebury School. McMillen announced that a quick new attack engine that just arrived will get up narrow driveways, under low-hanging trees and over canal bridges. Carrying about 300 gallons of water, the vehicle will expand response nimbleness.
The company enjoys a healthy financial status, he stated, adding that less than half of funding is from local taxes. A recruitment initiative is being pursued for 2019, with goals of installing three new interior firefighters and lowering ISO rating from a 4 to a 3, which would bring a $250-500 savings per household on homeowners insurance.
Incentives for volunteers were discussed with a new focus on fire inspections and safety. But a possible bond issue exists for the replacement of a tower ladder with an estimated cost of $1.5 million due in 3-5 years. While McMillen said they will try to “nurse it along as long as possible,” he suggested that presenting the issue to voters as a bond could be an option.
He added that another new engine would ensure all firefighters get to the fire instead of leaving some behind at the station. He stated that Eagle is considering a “dirt cheap engine” from Doylestown plus an all-aluminum jet ski that won’t break on the river like the current fiberglass.
Mayor Larry Keller recommended the appointments of Jim Becker as borough fire marshal and Kevin Doherty as deputy fire marshal. The appointments were approved by the board unanimously as was a one year extension for fire inspection services with the fire company proposed by board President Connie Gering.
In other borough business, a motion to advertise an ordinance to change the business tax billing schedule passed unanimously.
Certificates of appropriateness for 18-20 N. Main St. and façade improvements to 328 S. Main St. consistent with historic architectural review board recommendations were approved. An appeal of a HARB denial at 10 E. Mechanic St. was also presented.
Kevin Joy, HARB vice chair, argued that the scale of a proposed addition to enclose a deck was not recommended due to issues with inconsistent aesthetics on the building’s secondary façade facing the river.
A motion to approve the certificate of appropriateness against HARB recommendation was suggested by Gering and passed over the objections of council member Peter Meyer.