Changes spark concern with Hegins Fire Police
Published: February 7, 2013
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HEGINS - Since it was announced earlier in January that the Hegins Fire Police are no longer going to be governed under Hegins Township, there has been contention and concerns among the organization's members.
Thursday evening those concerns were aired during a meeting of the Hegins Fire Police held in the Hegins Fire Company truck room.
The Hegins Township Board of Supervisors announced at its January meeting that a meeting was held with members of the fire police prior to the January supervisors meeting and it was determined that the organization has decided to go under the Hegins Fire Company instead of the township.
Some members are angry because they were not included in the decision making process of making the move.
"I was never contacted about a meeting and I had no discussion or vote in the decision to do this," says Hegins Fire Police member Tim Koppenhaver. "I have been involved in the fire police for 17 years and as far as I know we never had a problem with the township, I just don't understand why this decision was made and why we didn't all have a vote."
According to Hegins Township Supervisor Chad Richards, the township supervisors agreed that they wanted a more detailed report of the fire police, such as secretary and treasurer reports so they knew what was going on and how money was being spent.
"We just wanted them to follow simple business practices," said Supervisor Richards.
According to Koppenhaver, he believes this was a big part of the reason why Fire Police Captain James Koons took it upon himself to make the decision to go under the direction of the Hegins Fire Company.
"I have been friends with Jim for many years and thought of him as a brother, but I don't agree with the way he is running the fire police and not following standard business practices," said Koppenhaver.
Koppenhaver feels there should be rules to follow and reports to be made.
"I also don't agree with the fact that there is a convicted felon heavily involved with the Hegins Fire Company," said Koppenhaver. "Jim is president of the Hegins Fire Company as well and he refuses to do anything to have this person removed. This person has been convicted of indecent assault and must register every year on Megan's Law, but yet he is still involved with the fire company and at times around children. I have notified the schools of this matter, the township supervisors, the local police and have brought it to Jim's attention and nothing is being done about it. I want to protect my character and don't want someone of that nature ruining the name of both the Hegins Fire Police and the Hegins Fire Company."
Koppenhaver also claims that this person has acted as a fire policeman when he was no longer an appointed fire police of the organization.
According to Ed Mann, the state fire commissioner, there is no law in the state of Pennsylvania that says a convicted felon can't be involved in the fire company.
"As long as someone has not been convicted of arson or anything related to arson, they can be involved in a fire company," said Commissioner Mann. "It's the decision of each individual company to determine if they want to be associated with someone like that or have them involved in their company, however, if the fire company were to operate an ambulance service, then that person couldn't be involved. Since we live in a sue happy society, if an incident did occur with that particular person during a fire call, the fire company needs to keep in mind that someone could sue the fire company and the local government."
"I'm not going to do anything about him at this point," said Koons. "He is very knowledgeable and does a lot of work for the company. I would have to find three guys to do the work of that one person."
Koppenhaver is also upset over the way trip reports and incidents are handled. He claims trip reports aren't be completed.
"Every time we are dispatched to a scene a trip report must be made including all the names of the fire police who responded, without those reports, we aren't covered by insurance."
Koppenhaver claims he lost out on a lot of tax-free money after he suffered a heart attack while acting in the duty of fire policeman. He claims Koons or the first lieutenant Steve Monahan never reported the incident to the insurance, thus Koppenhaver lost worker's compensation money.
According to an officer of the Hegins Fire Company who claims Koons did present Koppenhaver with the paperwork three days after the incident, the reason he was denied his claim is because the heart attack didn't occur while he was on duty and Koppenhaver had not been taking his medication as prescribed by a doctor. The officer claims to have seen the insurance forms.
After much discussion, the fire police are planning to sit down with the Hegins Fire Company members to discuss their needs and expectations and to hopefully work together.
"We used to have regular meetings, and I kind of got away from that and it's my fault, and I take the blame," said Koons. "We are going to have meetings and try to iron some of this stuff out and work together. We have a great unit here and everywhere we go other companies compliment on the fire police that we are a great organization. I would like to keep it that way and continue to work together and get these issues ironed out."
Koons did present a financial report during the meeting. He said the balance of the Hegins Fire Police checkbook is $744.48 as of January 31. He said there is one outstanding bill for flags and barriers that he expected to receive this week.
He also announced the donations that were received from 2012 which included: meat bingo, $1,500; Thrivent for Lutherans, $900; Hammers Towing, $250; Minute Man, $500; Rausch Creek, $600; Schuylkill County Wine Festival, $400; Hegins Craft Faire, $100; Sacramento Fire Company Poker Run, $300 and Light Up The Town, $100. A donation was also received from Pen Earth Works.
"Jim this is exactly what the township supervisors were asking for, just a simple report, I just don't understand why you felt it was necessary to leave the township and come under the fire company," said Koppenhaver.
Koppenhaver reported to The Citizen-Standard on Monday morning that he has been suspended as a fire policeman for 30 days effective Sunday, Feb. 3. Koppenhaver told The Citizen-Standard there was a meeting Sunday morning at the fire company after the fire police responded to an accident. Koppenhaver said it was at that meeting where Koons suspended him.
"I have no idea why I was suspended," said Koppenhaver. "I asked Mr. Koons to please put it in writing what rules I didn't follow, or what I did to deserve a suspension and he couldn't provide me with anything. He handed me a handwritten note that stated I was suspended for 30 days pending any further actions."
The Citizen-Standard contacted Koons on Monday for his statement on the suspension.
"You know I was a little upset that Mr. Koppenhaver couldn't tell me that he invited the media to the meeting Thursday evening," said Koons. "I didn't mind that you were there, but he could have had the courtesy to tell me. I called a meeting Sunday morning to discuss some of the things that Mr. Koppenhaver brought up during that meeting. It was during conversation Sunday morning that Mr. Koppenhaver began yelling and called me a (expletive) liar in front of other members of the unit. That was clearly disrespect for the chain of command and language like that will not be tolerated and that's why he was suspended."