WILKES-BARRE — Two city councilmen raised concerns Tuesday about the effects mandated fire patrols are having on equipment and firefighters and urged Mayor Tony George to reconsider the idea.
The fire watches involve firefighters driving the engines and aerial ladder truck throughout the city and parking them in highly visible locations as a way to prevent fires, according to the mayor.
But Councilman Bill Barrett pointed out there have been mechanical problems with some of the vehicles that are 12 to 15 years old.
“I think we need to make sure that we are maintaining this equipment … and I don’t think that that’s the best use of that type of equipment, let alone the firefighters that are operating this equipment,” Barrett said.
He noted he wanted to go on record with his comments anticipating council will be asked to approve the purchase of new equipment due to wear and tear caused by the watches.
“I don’t want anybody coming back to us in six months and saying we need to replace this engine because the transmission went on it or this happened or that happened,” said Barrett. “And it’s gonna happen when you start subjecting this equipment to that type of use that it wasn’t intended for hours of patrolling city streets.”
Council chairman Tony Brooks said he concurred with Barrett’s comments.
Earlier this month on her Facebook page, Councilwoman Beth Gilbert criticized the mayor for directing the firefighters to participate in a “senseless, wasteful directive.” The department is already understaffed and the patrols put additional stress on equipment and firefighters, she argued.
At the time, Gilbert was reacting to online complaints by the firefighters union.
City resident John Suchoski asked if a house fire on Stanton Street spread to other houses because the High Street fire station was closed and an engine had to come from the Hollenback station across town.
City Administrator Ted Wampole said the High Street station was under a “brown out” at the time due to lack of personnel. “Again, it comes down to staffing,” he said.
When asked by Suchoski how often that occurs, Wampole replied that he did not have the numbers available.
More stop signs coming
In regular business Tuesday, council approved the second and final readings of six ordinances to permanently install stop signs at the following intersections:
• South Empire and Stanton streets
• McHale Street and Kelly Avenue
• South Meade and New Market streets
• Old River Road and New Alexander Street
• Old River Road and Beekman Street
• South River, South Franklin and Garfield streets
Council also authorized Director of Operations Butch Frati to sign off on reimbursement agreements for the Wilkes University Phase II Pedestrian Improvement Project.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.