It's election day, and I'll be working inside the polls most of the day, so I'm doing an early diary entry.
Council finally posted their agenda for Wednesday's council meeting (7:30 pm, Municipal Hall) on Norristown.org. If you need reasons to attend, I can point out 3.
1) They're appointing a new police chief.
2) They're deciding the fate of 201 Dekalb (the building with the mural).
3) They're voting on a "Motion to approve the implementation of a Fire Service Billing Program."
I'm not sure what this last item means for us, but in other towns that use that same wording, it means that if your house catches fire, you or your insurance will be billed for firefighters to come put out the flames. In other communities, fees for fire service usually depend on how many trucks are dispatched, what equipment is used and the number of manhours it takes to put out the fire--thousands of dollars, at least. If a third-party vendor does the billing (as is commonly the case in Pennsylvania), residents could be billed tens of thousands--on top of the tragedy of having their home or business burn.
We ought to be ENCOURAGING home ownership in Norristown, to increase our tax income. As soon as insurance companies hear of fire service billing in an area, homeowner insurance rates go up, or they make you buy additional insurance to cover fire service. If you don't have the coverage, you'll be liable for the whole bill. If you can't pay, you could lose what's left of your property. High insurance rates will drive residents out of town. Even apartment residents will leave if the costs are passed on to them in their rent. No one will want to settle in Norristown knowing that even a minor fire could bring on financial ruin.
Not to mention all the people who'll try to put out fires by themselves because they can't afford to be billed. Then again, maybe this would solve our "dense population" problem that council seems to think we have.
So I really hope that's not what council means by "Fire Service Billing Program."
Go vote today, then Wednesday night, come take a gander at our new chief, show your support for the mural and Arts Hill, and let Council know your thoughts on the Fire Service Billing idea. Ask them why this motion does not have a 30 day public comment period, especially when the agenda was made public only 48 hours in advance of the meeting. I assume taxes have been used until now to cover fire service, so ask them what those taxes will be used for in the future.
Wednesday, 7:30 pm, Municipal Hall. Please come.