$5M state funding for Harrisburg fire protection spent elsewhere, again.

Harrisburg
firefighters are burned up over a state funding stream they claim is dedicated
to them, but only receive a small portion. A state senator explained Harrisburg
is receiving every penny in some way.

As
soon as the state budget came public this summer, a headline for Harrisburg was
a ‘record $5 million for fire protection'. In July, abc27 reported only $400,000
was actually dedicated to the department. Harrisburg Receiver William Lynch said
the remaining $4.6 million in state grants would be spent to pay down the city's
outstanding bills and the deficit.

Lynch
released his ‘Harrisburg Strong' debt recovery plan this week and called for the
same $5 million state funding in fire protection and public safety services ever
year until 2016. According to the plan, that cash would help balance the city
budget. Harrisburg firefighters and representatives with the local IAFF 428 fire
union were puzzled why they would continue to see a small portion of that
money.

State
Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) sat down with abc27 on Wednesday to
explain.

“I
don't think the funds should be viewed as a windfall to the city or to the fire
department specifically,” he said. “And, I think some of the misunderstanding
maybe in viewing the money that way…where really it's a reimbursement for
service provided.”

Teplitz
pointed to previous years when Harrisburg received $1 million or less in state
funding for fire protection services, therefore, forcing the city of Harrisburg
to cover the costs and adding to its financial failings in
part.

A
table from ‘Harrisburg Strong' showed Harrisburg received $2.5 million in 2012,
$987,000 in 2011, $987,000 in 2010, $1 million in 2009, and $1.25 million in
2008.

Vice
President of the local union said many firefighters felt duped when the record
$5 million in fire protection was touted. He spoke with abc27 last week about
fire protection concerns in Harrisburg and spoke about the need for increased
funding.

“With
five million dollars we could actually replace…our entire fleet could be
replaced,” he said. “We need the man power, we need the equipment to do the
job.”

The
‘Harrisburg Strong' plan projects about $1,000 will be spent a year on
‘vehicular equipment' from 2014 – 2016.

Teplitz
said he has been ensured the money will be spent in the proper way, “The issue
of using the money for fire service, using the money to balance the city budget
are one in the same,” he said.

Along
with State Representative Patty Kim (D-Dauphin), Teplitz said they are trying to
secure the $5 million state funding stream for fire protection a permanent
fixture.

“Hopefully
in future years, the city can invest that money into equipment, training,
etcetera…That the fire department thinks it needs,” said Teplitz. 

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