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FAULKNER: Briarcliffe Fire Company Was Not Racist

The Briarcliffe Fire Company in Darby Township disbanded in April following public outcry over a recording that captured members making racist remarks about Black firefighters. They were also caught allegedly mocking 8-year-old Fanta Bility, who was fatally shot by three Sharon Hill Police officers last August following a football game. 

Carlton Faulkner, a third-generation firefighter, was a former lieutenant at Colwyn Borough and at Goodwill Fire Company. He was the last one to hold the position of lieutenant at Briarcliffe Fire Company. He wrote this for DVJournal.


I never experienced racism or discrimination at the Briarcliffe Fire Company and do not believe other firefighters did, either. I am a man of color, as are some others who joined the fire company.

The now-defunct company came under fire for an audio tape that supposedly included the “N-word.” However, that word was never used. Instead, some believed the word “liar” was the N-word. The term “spook” was used, but no one felt offended by it.

And as for the controversy around the word “Fanta,” there was a discussion about the tragedy in Sharon Hill, where 8-year-old Fanta Bility was killed. However, another firefighter and I thought that they were talking about Fanta soda because Fanta soda is sweet. No one mocked that child who died. Our sons, who are disabled, both like Fanta soda.

The deputy chief of the Goodwill fire company, Timothy Eichelman, released the letter accusing us of mocking the girl before the audio even came out.

The letter disparaged all the individuals who Eichelman had issues with. I believe jealousy over the township assessment that did not fund Goodwill was the reason behind all this.

Goodwill Fire Co. provided false information regarding the number of qualified firefighters they had during the assessment, and the records did not match. And stations 76 and 77 did not turn in all the requested information.

So Eichelman and Goodwill Fire Chief Paul Graf wanted to keep that information from coming out. Goodwill also wanted Briarcliffe’s building and ambulance contract.

What bothers me about this situation is that I am the first person of color to hold a line officer position. And if I felt like I was being discriminated against, I would have spoken up and called them out on it.

The company did not have to accept me. They got numerous phone calls and texts from people in other organizations saying to deny my membership because I would cause issues. The chief and the board of directors took a gamble bringing me into the company.

But they saw what I brought to the table and how devoted I was to running calls. It did not matter what type of call it was, I was on the truck. I was one of the top 10 responders.

Briarcliffe Fire Co. was my second home, my second family. The personal connection was so deep that my autistic son wanted to run fire calls at that company with the same individuals because he loved being there. My son’s dream was shattered because he only wanted to be a part of that company.

Imagine telling your 6-year-old son that being at that company won’t happen. They ask you why, and when you tell them, they start crying. That really got under my skin.

Some residents on the southern end of the township also stated that Briarcliffe never made it to fire calls in their community and they assumed it was because the south end of the township is predominantly Black.

If anyone checked any information, they would have known that the chief of station 76, Tiberius Bobo, never put Briarcliffe on the run card for anything except building fires. Also, we had an EMS contract with a hospital in that area, and they supplied the EMT and paramedics for the calls.

Now that we voted to dissolve Briarcliffe, residents in Darby Township can expect longer wait times for ALS (advanced life support) care. So if the township commissioners cared so much about the township, they would have resolved the situation without this blowing up.

A heart patient might wait nearly 30 minutes for an ALS ambulance to arrive. According to state standards, the preferred wait time is six minutes or less. That is entirely unacceptable for any emergency.

This is my statement on this matter, and I stand by it.

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POWELSON: Sale of CWA Good for Consumers, City of Chester

America is facing serious and growing water infrastructure challenges, meaning communities across the country are having important conversations about how to ensure safe, reliable water. One of those conversations is happening right now in Chester where the city, which owns the Chester Water Authority (CWA), is looking to get out of the water business and put it in the hands of other local experts.

As both a CWA customer and president of the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), which represents America’s water companies, I am invested in this ongoing conversation about the future of Chester’s water system and am concerned about misinformation concerning the potential sale.

A wide sampling of that misinformation was part of a recent editorial written by local activists.

Chester is looking to sell its system for good reasons. First, Chester faces significant financial challenges and is only the second Pennsylvania town to be placed into receivership. The sale of CWA is a solution that will bring in much-needed revenues while also placing the system in the hands of professionals.

By selling to a professional water company, Chester will gain the operational expertise that is the hallmark of the private water industry, which currently serves over 4.4 million Pennsylvanians. Despite activist attempts to paint a rosy picture about CWA, the reality is the system has been plagued by operational inefficiencies for decades. A water company will be able to address those inefficiencies, offer a strategic investment plan that removes local politics from decisions about infrastructure, and ensures residents have safe and reliable water for generations to come.

Instead of providing a factual assessment of CWA’s situation, the editorial’s writers resort to the very thing they accuse water companies of doing–scaremongering. For many years, activists on the fringes have tried to demonize particular industries by putting “big” before it. Big Oil. Big Pharma. Big Ag.

But this is a new, absurd one. Big Water?

I assume they are referring to the water companies that:

  • Serve 73 million Americans, partnering with local communities to ensure the highest level of water quality and reliability at affordable rates. These very companies have been proven in study after study to provide the highest quality water–higher than that provided by government-run systems. In fact, EPA data show systems run by Pennsylvania water companies are 34.7 percent less likely to have Safe Drinking Water Act violations compared to government-run systems.
  • Invest billions of dollars annually into community water systems so that when you turn on your tap, you know your water is safe to give to your family.
  • Provide affordability programs to assist those who may struggle to pay their water bills, unlike the government-run systems.
  • That employs tens of thousands of local residents who live in the communities they serve every day–people who are a part of the fabric of the community’s life and you see at the gym or the grocery store or on the sidelines at youth sporting events.

Putting aside the writers’ obvious red herring, it is incredible how many basic facts about water system operations their editorial got wrong.

For example, their claims about how water companies generate profit are laughably inaccurate and expose just how little they actually know about water utilities. They claim water companies want inflated prices for water systems because higher purchase prices result in bigger profits.

That isn’t at all how it works.

The price a water company pays for a system has absolutely nothing to do with how much of a return it can earn. A water company can only earn a return on the dollars they invest in necessary infrastructure repairs and upgrades on systems it already owns.

The writers are right about one thing – water companies are “regulated utilities.” Unlike government-run systems, water companies have strict oversight from independent state regulators. In Pennsylvania, that’s the Public Utility Commission (PUC).

I had the pleasure of serving as PUC chair and know how these protections benefit customers. The PUC provides rate regulation–meaning those expert regulators systematically review company expenditures and assess system needs as part of a transparent, months-long rate-setting process. That’s right: decision-making on customer rates rests in the hands of expert independent regulators, not water companies or local politicians who want to be re-elected.

City leaders and residents should not be misguided by those who are only interested in blocking proven water company solutions, not fostering a productive discussion about what is best for Chester’s residents. The expertise, strategic investment, and singular focus on water system operations that comes from working with a water company will ensure that current CWA customers like my neighbors and my family have safe drinking water and reliable service.

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