Note: Hellertown Borough Council took no official action on developer Abe Atiyeh’s offer to donate $100,000 toward the purchase of a new fire truck. Acceptance of the donation as well as Atiyeh’s request that he be given naming rights to the vehicle would require council approval.
One could say that Christmas came early for the volunteers and supporters of Dewey Fire Co. No. 1 Monday, when Hellertown Borough Council voted 5-2 to approve the purchase of a new specialized ladder truck known as a quint at a cost of approximately $1.07 million.
The “stocking stuffer” the fire company received was delivered by well-known area businessman Abe Atiyeh, who owns the assisted living facility Saucon Valley Manor in the 1000 block of Main Street.
In a surprise move, Atiyeh and his wife Nimita Kapoor Atiyeh urged council to approve the truck purchase and promised to put $100,000 of his own wealth toward it, since, he noted, “it will be beneficial for our (Saucon Valley Manor) residents.”
“Personal care homes are stick and frame,” Atiyeh said. “This truck is going to save lives.”
He said his contribution will be made in $10,000 increments spread out over a decade.
“The new units we’re starting to build are starting to fill up,” he told council. “As long as our business is good expect that $10,000 every year.”‘
Atiyeh also said “we want naming rights to the truck.”
No one publicly expressed objection to or support for that idea, however fire company members and their supporters at the meeting at that point appeared more concerned simply about getting council to approve the deal.
The fire truck in question will be manufactured by HME of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Dewey Fire Co. Chief Mike Maguire told council two weeks earlier that the quote he has from the company is only valid through the end of the year.
At the Dec. 2 meeting, most of borough council’s seven members expressed reluctance to approve the purchase, with several saying they were unhappy with the financial details of it.
In the intervening weeks, however, additional information provided to them by Maguire and others may have changed several council members’ minds.
Speakers who addressed council Monday–such as former Dewey Fire Chief Jerry Malone–also stressed the importance of the truck purchase to public safety in the borough.
Malone said an independent 1981 study–commissioned during his tenure as chief–concluded that the fire company should have a ladder truck.
“This town needs this piece of apparatus,” he told council. “This town hasn’t gotten any easier from a firefighting standpoint since 1981.”
Council president Tom Rieger said borough staff attempted to locate the 38-year-old study, with no luck. He acknowledged, however, that it may have been one of many documents lost when the basement of Hellertown Borough Hall was flooded in 2004.
“I think that a study showing that we need it now would have been beneficial,” Rieger said, noting that the borough has purchased several fire trucks since 1981 but not a ladder truck.
One of those trucks was a 2006 KME which borough and fire company officials have labeled a bad piece of equipment due to the frequent repairs it needs.
Part of the purchase plan originally presented by Maguire and the rest of his truck committee to council called for the sale of the KME for $150,000, however council members said they felt selling it now would not be a wise move.
Among council members, the two to vote against purchasing the new HME quint were Rieger and councilman Mike McKenna.
The most strident supporter of the purchase was councilman Earl Hill, who argued against delaying the purchase any longer.
“You could have a fire…and someone dies,” because the borough has no ladder truck, he said.
“We don’t have the money,” councilman Phil Weber stated.
“We do have the money,” responded Earl Hill. “There is a need to have that truck. They deserve the damn truck.”
Outgoing councilman Andrew Hughes–who was thanked for his year-plus of service to the borough–also said he ultimately concluded after careful consideration that the fire company’s purchase request represents a need as opposed to a want.
Hughes said one factor that influenced his decision to vote “yes” is the amount of new townhouse and nursing home unit construction.
He said newer construction homes can burn four to five times faster than older buildings.
“I do care about money but I care about Hellertown even more,” he said. “I’m still not really thrilled about the situation, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the risk is worth taking because the need is there.”
If all goes according to plan, the new fire truck will be delivered to Hellertown in early 2021, Maguire said.