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Delaware County Council Authorizes $1.75M to Support First Responders

From a press release

In a unanimous vote, Delaware County Council authorized using up to $1,750,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to provide grants to local fire departments across the county. More than 60 active fire companies are eligible for grants worth up to $25,000 for their operational needs. The funds are designed to replace lost revenues and supplement fund-raising efforts adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Delaware County’s First Responders have been our true Front-Line Heroes over the past two and a half years during the pandemic,” said Delaware County Council Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer. “Many of our local fire companies rely on volunteers and fundraising to keep us safe, and these efforts were curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants provide them with funds that can offset the financial hardships they have faced.”

The County has launched a streamlined application process to expedite the distribution of the funds. Delaware County’s Emergency Services Department is administering the funds, with appropriate checks and balances to ensure all grants meet operational needs.

Fire companies interested in applying for a grant can contact the County Emergency Operations Center at (610) 565-8700. Applications are due by November 30, 2022.

“Our First Responders have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic,” said Emergency Services Director Timothy Boyce, who recently met with the County’s Fire Service Leadership to go over details of the grant process. “These new grants authorized by Council will allow them to focus on providing essential services and protecting our community.


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Rep. Houlahan, Mayor Urscheler Discuss Hurricane Ida Response

From a press release

This week, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester) and Phoenixville Mayor Peter Urscheler gathered at the new Phoenixville Fire Station with nearly 50 first responders and community leaders in reflection of Hurricane Ida’s destruction one year ago this week.

Wednesday’s visit included remarks from both Houlahan and Urscheler, as well as a local resident who lost everything in the flooding, Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas, Tamela Luce of the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation (PCHF), Karin Williams of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and Reverend Peter Paprowski of the Holy Ghost Church. Following remarks, attendees gathered for a discussion on the FEMA application process and then concluded with a tour of the new fire station.

“I will never forget seeing the destruction of the floodwaters in Phoenixville the morning after Hurricane Ida struck,” said Houlahan. “As we walked through the community, an officer shared with me that it was the toughest day he’s had on the job in his 25 years of service—that tells you something about how our first responders were impacted.

“I am constantly reminded of how community-oriented we are here in southeastern Pennsylvania, but yesterday especially as we gathered representatives from all levels of government and facets of our community, including nonprofits, schools, health care providers and more. The takeaway was clear: we are only as strong as how well we support one another, and here in our community we could not be more engaged and supportive. As many others shared, I’m so proud to call this place home,” she said.

In the wake of Hurricane Ida, Houlahan urged President Biden to swiftly declare a federal state of emergency so federal resources could be made available to impacted areas.

“It’s amazing when I look back, a year later, on the terrible devastation caused by Hurricane Ida,” said Urscheler. “But, more so, when I remember all the large and small things that so many people did to help each other to recover and get their lives back. While Hurricane Ida was the most destructive storm we have experienced in our area since Hurricane Agnes in 1972, it was no match for the strength and resilience of the people of this community.

“We are so blessed that no local lives were lost during those horrifying hours. And we are doubly blessed to know that we live in a community where, when the unthinkable occurs, neighbors quickly spring into action to help neighbors. We are so grateful to all of our first responders, our fire department, police, sanitation workers, office of emergency management, community members, volunteers, and our elected officials. And I am so grateful, that the morning after Hurricane Ida, Representative Houlahan was there, seeing the devastation for herself, so she could take our community needs directly to the federal government so everyone could get their lives back on track as quickly as possible,” he said.

State emergency officials determined that more than 1,700 homes sustained minor damaged, 500 sustained major damage and 70 were destroyed.

“The volunteers and staff of the Phoenixville Fire Department responded to numerous emergencies throughout the Borough of Phoenixville and surrounding communities during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida,” said Phoenixville Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas. “The investment in training and equipping our personnel to properly deal with water rescue incidents paid off as no lives were lost during this devastating storm. Water rescue response preparedness will continue to be a high priority for the department.”

In the first week of September 2021, historic flooding caused by Hurricane Ida left a path of destruction throughout the region. Local emergency responders rescued 195 people, many from their vehicles or from the roofs of their homes. An estimated 80 cars were under water. After the storm, over 537 residents from Chester and Montgomery Counties were left homeless and living in hotels.

“Hurricane Ida was devastating to our community and surrounding neighbors,” said Police Chief Brian Marshall. “Days prior to the storm approaching Phoenixville, all of our emergency responders hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. I’m extremely proud of our fire department’s efforts and commitment to saving lives and rescuing victims from their homes and vehicles during the storm’s water surge.

“Our EOC Coordinator, Karin Williams, worked unthinkable hours to help not only Phoenixville but also our neighbors to the east in Upper Providence as well. Swift water rescue is a skill set that police departments do not possess. However, we supported the humanitarian efforts afterwards by delivering food, cleaning products and extra patrol to surrounding areas,” he said.

Williams of the Office of Emergency Management spoke about the preparations made ahead of Hurricane Ida and actions taken in the aftermath.

“As an emergency manager, you are often tasked with looking at emergencies from the ‘big picture’ and then need to break down the process of preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation,” said Williams. “Based on the weather reports from that night in 2021 none of us could have been truly prepared for the devastation that occurred overnight, while most people were in bed. I am so grateful to the Phoenixville Community, how they sprung into action.

“Our school district opened its doors as an emergency shelter in conjunction with the National Guard, our non-profits began cooking for first responders, and after clean up in the Borough was well underway, our residents began walking across the bridge to help our neighbors in Mont Clare and Port Providence. I will always be inspired by not only our community’s immediate response but also the sustained efforts that went on for close to a year, which helped everyone in our region get back on their feet,” she said.

“When the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation saw the destruction that Hurricane Ida brought to Mont Clare and Port Providence, we knew we had to help our neighbors and committed more than $300,000 to this effort,” Tamela Luce, President/CEO, Phoenixville Community Health Foundation. “A collaboration of Open Hearth, the Phoenixville Jaycees, and Karin Williams of Phoenixville’s Office of Emergency Management developed a process to assess homeowners needs and distributed the funds accordingly.

“In only about two months, 54 homeowners received up to $10,000 each to ensure their electrical, heating, and water systems were once again working properly. It is thanks to the interconnectedness of the Phoenixville nonprofit community that we were able to mobilize and distribute funding as quickly as we did. When our neighbors need help, Phoenixville is there,” Luce said.

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DELCO Council Approves Upgrade of Public Safety Radio System

Delaware County Council recently unanimously voted to spend $38 million to improve its emergency radio system.

The upgrade by JVC Kenwood and will include an extensive review of various design approaches.

“This is a great purchase by the county council and one of the most important public safety initiatives in Delaware County for the last 50 years,” said Ridley Park Chief of Police, Robert M. Frazier.

The three-year upgrade, which includes purchasing of 3,700 new radios and moving the county’s system to a 700 MHz radio spectrum, will increase the ability of various agencies to work and communicate together. It will be the first significant radio upgrade since the 1970s. The county will deploy new, higher frequency radios that increase reliability and coordination among first responders and expand the coverage area.

In 2019, the county council commissioned a study of the needs of first responders and the capabilities of Delaware County’s current radio system following reports that there had been multiple situations when emergency personnel could not reach the 911 system due to problems related to the use of lower 500 HMZ frequency radios.

The new radios will use new frequencies and updated technology that should reduce interference issues. The radios that relied on older technology sometimes experienced a problem referred to as troposphere propagation, sometimes interfering with the ability of a first responder to communicate with the 911 Center.

“This investment in upgrading our public safety radio system will have an immediate effect and help keep our first responders safe and allow them to work together to protect the public more effectively,” said Delaware County Councilman Kevin Madden. “An integral piece of our commitment to the public’s safety is ensuring that first responders across the county have the tools and resources they need to communicate with each other in real-time to respond effectively to crises and deploy critically needed emergency services effectively.”

The upgrade will increase the capacity of the county’s emergency system and its reliability by moving from a 500 MHz radio spectrum to 700 MHz, purchasing and distributing 3,700 radios to ensure that first responders have access to the capabilities and features of the system. It will also increase the security of the system to prevent hacking. Local officials can also buy new radios at a significantly reduced price under this contract. The improved design does not require building new towers and will use the 20 existing radio transmission towers.

“Council has always been and will remain committed to ensuring that we are careful stewards of taxpayer money, even as we make critical and long-overdue investments in our county and its future,” said Madden. “Council commends the Department of Emergency Services, under the leadership of Director Timothy Boyce and project consultants ACD Telecom and JVC Kenwood for their diligence in improving service and reliability across the county.”

Springfield Township Chief of Police, Joseph J. Daly praised the emergency radio upgrade.

“County Council committed to replacing the current radio system with a technologically advanced and sophisticated system,” said Daly. “County Council and staff worked tirelessly with all system users to qualify and quantify their individual and collective needs, which were incorporated in the comprehensive planning stage.

“In the interim, county communications personnel assigned to maintain the network made equipment upgrades to maintain the existing system,” he said. “Spending 40 million in taxpayers’ money is not an undertaking that is done lightly.  Under the leadership and direction of the county council, all the prerequisites and tedious planning have been completed. As a result, soon, the citizens of Delaware County and all emergency services will be operating under a state-of-the-art communications network that will serve the community for many years to come.”

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During Bensalem Stop, Corman Touts ‘People First’ Campaign for Governor

Senate Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Republican who is running for governor in 2022, came to the Nottingham Fire Company in Bensalem Wednesday to speak with first responders.

“Volunteer fire companies save the state billions of dollars,” he said. “The pressure of getting more and more volunteers is difficult. It’s important for me to hear from them what they’re facing, what their challenges are.”

Corman, 57, who represents Centre, Mifflin, and Juniata counties, is the son of a state senator and has spent 22 years in Pennsylvania politics.

“This is not something I wanted to do growing up. I was a journalism major, believe it or not,” Corman told Delaware Valley Journal in a podcast interview. “And I wanted to be in sports broadcasting. And in 1994, my good friend, Rick Santorum, ran for the United States Senate.”

Sen. Jake Corman (center) meets with first responders at the Nottingham Fire Company.

After Santorum won, Corman “got the political bug” and went to work for him as state director in central Pennsylvania.

With the slogan “People First,” Corman is running to get things done to help people.

“I’d like to think I’m the excitement candidate. I’m someone who believes in putting people first. Someone who believes in protecting our freedoms.”

He took some swipes at Democrat incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, who is term-limited and will not be running again, for his handling of the COVID pandemic.

“He was wrong when at the beginning of the pandemic he shut down our healthcare facilities,” said Corman. That caused many people to forego needed tests like mammograms or have surgeries like hip replacements, according to Corman.

“And I said, ‘Governor, you know, this is a healthcare crisis. Hospitals were full of very smart people who are experts in the healthcare industry.’”

“Our Founding Fathers decided to put the power in the people, and not the government,” he said. “The last 18 months, we’ve watched a lot of our freedoms come, not under attack, but under assault. We had a governor tell us who could go to work and support their families, and who could not. Who could go to school and get educated, and who could not. Who could get healthcare and improve their lives, and who could not. Who could congregate, who could protest in the streets, and who could not.”

Corman quoted Wolf, saying, “’The government will do everything it can to make you feel comfortable.’ When I heard that, it sent a chill up my spine. Because, really, what the governor is saying to you is, ‘We’re going to make you comfortable giving up your civil liberties.’ … Not on my last breath will I ever feel comfortable giving up my civil liberties. Because when you get comfortable giving up your freedoms and your civil liberties, the government is going to get comfortable taking them. And there may come a day when they never come back.”

Corman also accused progressives of attacking the “very people who protect us,” citing Philadelphia’s surging homicide rate with more than 500 deaths this year. That trend, he said, is reflected in other parts of the state and across the country.

“And what did our governor do when all this was going on? He participated in a march and stood in front of a sign that said ‘Blue Lives Murder.’ That’s the type of leadership he chose to provide during this very difficult time. … The people of Pennsylvania don’t support that agenda. They don’t support defunding the police. They don’t support attacking the heroes of our community. I will stand with our men and women in uniform.”

Corman counts jobs and quality education as key parts of his platform.

“Economic security is the key component of family-sustaining jobs, family-sustaining communities,” he said. “You’ve got to have economic security if you’re going to have a successful community. The way you get those good, blue-collar jobs is developing good economic policy which this governor doesn’t want to do.”

“And I’ve led the charge against his policies and created better policies that have created jobs in the energy sector, which has created blue-collar jobs.”

Corman pointed to a new $6 billion natural gas to gasoline plant that will be built in Lucerne County that he supported but Wolf opposed. That plant will create about 4,000 temporary construction jobs and several hundred permanent jobs.

“I want to get things done,” he said. “We can all stand for certain things. We can all be for certain things. But if you don’t accomplish them then, really, what good are you?”

Corman also blasted the progressive Democrats’ push to defund the police.

“The people who live in this community want policing more than anybody,” he said. “If you don’t stand up and say, ‘we need safe streets. We need to support our men and women in uniform,’ then you’re sending out a message that’s it’s not important. The crime that went on in some of our cities and no one prosecuted any of these people …You’re sending a message that what they’re doing is OK.”

Corman added, “We can support our men and women in uniform and still deal with the social concerns that drive some of those values,” he said. “I believe that we can have good energy jobs and still protect our environment. It’s a false choice to say it has to be one or the other. You can do both. You just have to be clever, you have to be creative.”

Education was a big issue driving many parents to the polls in the 2021 election cycle, as parents saw what their children were learning online during the pandemic.

“First of all, we have to be fighting back as a nation, not just a state, as a nation against Washington, D.C. and new Biden administration, sending the FBI out after parents who go to school board meetings and to have voices heard. That’s the most outrageous thing I think I’ve ever heard in my entire career, my entire life that our own country would be trying to silence voices.”

“We have to be encouraging parents to be involved in their children’s education,” he added.

Corman is competing in a large field of GOP candidates, including former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, Montgomery Commissioner Joe Gale, GOP strategist Charlie Gerow, Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry  CEO Guy Ciarrocchi, Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, former Delaware County Councilmember Dave White, and surgeon Nche Zama.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the only announced Democrat in the governor’s race.

Reporter Isaac Avilucea contributed to this article.

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