Firemen displeased

with new air system
To the editor:
The members of the Columbia Fire Company #4 wish to express our extreme displeasure over the recent awarding of the air system bid to Continental Fire and the Eagle System.
We feel very strongly that we have been forced to accept an air system that we do not want and one that does not meet the specifications that were sent out for bid. We attempted to express our concerns at the Board of Fire Commissioners April meeting and were basically told that the air system was a done deal, and that we would have to live with your decision.
Therefore, we are writing to you now to convey that we still feel that the awarding of this contract was unjustified and unreasonable.
Let’s review some of the facts leading to your unjust awarding of this contract. The Columbia Fire Co. had a committee of seven members, including commissioners Myers and Tillett, that have spent the last two and one-half years researching truck manufacturers and air systems for the replacement of our 1976 Ranger Cascade and Air Unit. This research took our committee from Lancaster, Pa., to Cape May to Golden Bridge, N.Y., and they met with nine different air representatives during this time.
All of the fire commissioners were invited to attend these meetings and trips to view the different equipment that was available. Only commissioners Tillet and Myers attended these meetings.
The Eagle system was one of the air systems that was reviewed by our committee, and it was determined to not be acceptable to our needs when we wrote the specifications — approved by the fire commission — that went out for bid.
The awarding of the truck manufacturer and the air system was to be done Feb. 12. Due to some problems with the wording of the specifications for the air system, this bid was not awarded until the March 12 meeting.
During the month that you had the air system bids, it was noted that Continental Fire said they were 100 percent compliant with the specifications since they made no specific exceptions noted on the bid proposal. Our committee found 11 exceptions to the specifications, and Chief Ronald Tillet and Chairman Jack Howell met to discuss these differences.
After combining several items and determining other items as acceptable, a list of five major exceptions was presented to your Board of Fire Commissioners.
These were:
Control panel is painted steel, not stainless steel.
Lubrication of the bearings is not equivalent.
Cool-down cycle not acceptable.
Purification system components not aluminum.
Horizontal configuration is required.
It was determined that the Eagle unit was not equivalent and should be rejected. We continue to consider these as major exceptions to the air system for all of our previously documented reasons.
The fire commission gave Continental Fire the opportunity to address these concerns before awarding the contract at your March meeting. Continental Fire bid on an in-house air system without ever touring our firehouse to research what would be needed for their system to fit in our facility.
The air system bids were discussed at your special meeting Feb. 26, and they did not tour our firehouse until after that date. Were any other vendors contacted to see what else they could do to fix their compliance or to lower their bid price?
It is our feeling that the fire commission went with the lowest bid for the air system even though the system does not meet the approved specifications and our requirements. The members of the Columbia Fire Company feel betrayed by the fire commission since we believe that we have worked in good faith with you during this entire process.
In 2001, the voters of Lambertville approved a budget of $314,650 for the new apparatus and $47,754 for a new air system. These figures represented true costs and were not over-inflated with extra items. We were told that money was tight and not to expect any additional funding. We accepted this and worked with our representatives from Air Power and Rescue One to make some modifications to keep the price as low as possible.
We were very concerned about possible price increases in 2002 because the specifications were not sent out during the 2001 year but held over for this current year.
When the truck bids were opened at your Feb. 12 meeting, Rescue One was able to provide the apparatus for $304,052. This was a savings of $10,598 to the fire commission and the taxpayers of the City of Lambertville. When the bids for the air system were discussed, Air Power gave us a bid of $40,651. This was an additional savings of $7,103 for a total savings on the fully compliant apparatus and air system of $17,701. It was your wish to save an additional $4,677 on the Eagle System from Continental Fire & Safety that we still maintain does not meet the specifications that were sent out for bid.
Continental Fire & Safety may prove to be a good company, and we hope that we can have a good working relationship with them should the fire commission continue with this contract.
We are very displeased that we appear to not be continuing a great working relationship with Air Power and the Mako system that has served this company and the City of Lambertville so well for the past 26 years. We are glad to hear that parts for the Eagle system are now being stocked in the United States because we know that they have not been in the past. The Eagle system has had several owners during recent years, including Ingersoll Rand and Hamworthy Compressor.
We have to question why the fire commission would have approved a contract with Continental Fire & Safety that provided a list of three like systems, dated from 1998 to 2001, when Air Power has installed 53 units over the past year alone! We can only presume that it was to save money on a non-compliant system as per your approved specifications.
In closing, let us say that we realize that you have a tough job to do, and we appreciate all that you do for the fire service and the City of Lambertville. It is our belief that our committee’s efforts were overlooked and not appreciated in this matter, and that you really "missed the boat" on this one.
We attempted to work with you during every step of this process and cut every corner that we could to get costs down to you and the taxpayers of Lambertville. In the end, we all lose in this situation since we seem to be forced to accept a system that does not meet our specifications and one that will not serve the City of Lambertville and our surrounding communities as it should.
We ask that you reconsider your actions and approve a system that has proven itself over the past 26 years.

Michael P. Fleming
secretary for the membership
Lambertville Fire Department

Merchants meet

in New Hope
To the editor:
Wednesday evening, May 15, approximately 50 business owners and commercial property owners met at La Terrazza Restaurant for an informational meeting hosted by the Independent Merchants of New Hope.
This group formed to provide the downtown New Hope merchants, service businesses and commercial property owners an open forum to discuss business concerns and pursue common goals and interests.
Elissa G. Marsden, heritage development specialist with the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, described how the effort to bring a state-sponsored Main Street Program to New Hope evolved into the proposal to create a business improvement district funded by assessments paid by commercial property owners in the district.
Ms. Marsden’s presentation prompted a lively discussion. Several attendees expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of information previously available to them. The Independent Merchants group has worked actively to alleviate that lack with newsletters, Internet e-mail lists and by providing copies of relevant legislation and reports at its meetings.
Following the discussion of the district, W. Keith Toler, executive director of the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau Inc., presented information on a variety of promotional opportunities in Bucks County, including the filming of a new movie featuring the area. A more in-depth discussion will be scheduled for a later meeting.
The Independent Merchants of New Hope are pursuing its own marketing ideas. Christina Georgiou, owner of Enchantments on Stockton Avenue, outlined plans for the creation of "The Insider’s Guide to New Hope." This marketing tool will be available to the entire business community and will include all businesses in New Hope and what they specialize in. That way, businesses can refer customers to each other easily and knowledgeable. It’s something new that has been needed in this community for a long time, Ms. Georgiou said.
Ultimately, the Independent Merchants hope for a wider circulation for the book (to be updated on an annual basis) with plans to distribute it to area bed and breakfasts and offer it as a fund-raising tool for school groups and charitable organizations.
Membership in the Independent Merchants of New Hope is open to business owners and commercial property owners in New Hope and costs $35 per year for those who agree to receive their newsletters by e-mail and $50 for those who prefer hard copy.
For more information, call Ms. Georgiou at (215) 862-2324, Bert Johnson at (215) 862-5626 or Caroline Dechert at (215) 862-6112.
The next meeting of the Independent Merchants of New Hope will be held Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. at La Terrazza Restaurant.

Christine Georgiou
on behalf of
Independent Merchants
of New Hope

Confidence lacking

in chamber
To the editor:
Lambertville’s Chamber of Commerce has long suffered from a lack of confidence from its members and recently this boiled over into real animosity.
When one merchant got wind of the fact that the chamber was putting up directional signs throughout the business district, except for North Union Street where his business is located, he boiled over. Once again he felt let down. He wanted to know how the chamber could conceive of a plan, which included Bridge Street, but not North Union.
In a phone call to Laura Fleming, president of the chamber, he let her know in no uncertain terms how he felt about the chamber. And he wasn’t the only merchant who was up in arms.
Upshot of the phone calls and a letter from North Union Street merchants requesting a signpost at the corner of Bridge and Union, installed by the public telephone, resulted in the chamber sending an application to the City Council. But the chamber, without consultation, switched the position to a location not wanted by the merchants. This ill-advised action only reinforced the chamber’s reputation of not supporting its members. As a result, I made a corrected application to the City Council.
Ms. Fleming was furious. And she decided to get rid of who she saw as the "troublemaker," board member Deloris Verchere. It was I who had alerted the merchants to the fact that North Union was the only street excluded from the sign project.
It was I who had voiced so many complaints about the way the chamber was run.
So Ms. Fleming threatened the board that either I must go or she would go. Knowing absolutely no one else would volunteer for the job of president, she was secure and asked for my resignation. I declined because I wish to continue to represent the interests of the members.
Not satisfied with that, Ms Fleming called for a "hearing" and vote for my expulsion from the board on the grounds I had brought the chamber into ill repute! The concept is almost laughable.
However, members of the board of Lambertville’s Chamber of Commerce actually went along with this plan.
The chamber, however, did not do its homework, and when they counted the votes, it was discovered they did not have the requisite two-thirds of the members of the board as required in the chamber’s bylaws. They only had two-thirds of those present. Quite different and insufficient to carry the vote.
In the circumstances, Ms Fleming took the extraordinary step of sending a personal and malicious letter to nearly 200 members of the chamber that I had been removed from the board — knowing full well that I have not been. Perhaps she thought that to publish a lie would make it a fact. In her anger, she has, indeed, overstepped her authority and sadly brought the chamber into further ill repute.
I am sure that all chamber board members who participated in this affair did not take the time to read the bylaws and were unaware of the misinterpretation perpetuated by their president. But we live by the law and seek to interpret it honestly. We know what is right and what is wrong.
What has happened inside the Lambertville Area Chamber of Commerce is not right, and a public retraction and apology sent to the members and the press is in order.
Now is a time to look closely at how we, as a chamber, function: how best to serve our members, to encourage our members to help in the process, to look at the issues most relevant to the businesses of Lambertville and champion the cause of a healthy business environment in keeping with all that we cherish here. We need to listen to one another, and we need to pull together to achieve our goals.

Deloris Verchere
founding president
Lambertville Antiques Dealers Association
and board member
Lambertville Area Chamber of Commerce

Awards program

had support
To the editor:
May I take this opportunity to thank all who joined me in supporting the Columbia Fire Company of Lambertville and the Eagle Fire Company of New Hope through the recent Mother’s Day Awards Program at the Eagle firehouse.
I want to thank my many friends who attended and the many businesses who made their generous contributions directly to these worthy organizations.
The entertainers included my personal friends, vocalists Lew Taylor, Dennis Tillett and Tony Shiron; the members of my Praise Band, George Warner, Matt Wiley, Kyle Tress and Jeff Kline; my pastor, the Rev. Ray Force of the First Baptist Church of Lambertville; and all who donated their services to the First Baptist Church of Lambertville.
I want to thank my mayor, David Del Vecchio of Lambertville; the mayor of West Amwell, Nance Palladino, and the mayor of New Hope, Laurence Keller, for their presence, their presentations on behalf of their municipalities and their kind words for the honorees. Many thanks to the governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey, for his proclamations on behalf of our New Jersey honorees.
May I thank the Eagle Fire Company for their generous hospitality, Stewart Palilonis for the printing of the tickets and the New Hope Baptist Church of Metuchen for their special support.
I would also thank my friends of many years for their unwavering support of all my community projects: Rick and Kathy Buscavage of Niece Lumber, Al and Marie Varga of Blue Ribbon Flowers, Richard McDonough, the City of Lambertville and the Delaware Valley Council of Churches.
I salute the mothers who were honored, Sheila Bellamy, Brenda Reasoner, Rosemary Frederiks and Kim Wilson. This honor was but a token of our respect, affection and appreciation of all the dedicated mothers throughout our community.
Many thanks to God, now and always, for all his encouragement and blessings. Many, many thanks!

Allonia K. Thompson

Resident won’t

shop in city again
To the editor:
I paid $15 to cover the fine assessed when our parking meter ran out 10 minutes before we arrived back at our car.
To say we were a little annoyed is an understatement.
Our thanks for patronizing a local furniture store and deli — rather than the mall where parking is free and abundant or the Internet where one doesn’t have to leave home — was a ticket for an overdue meter.
If this had been during Shad Fest or another crowd-drawing event, I could understand. But on a rainy Sunday afternoon when most people chose to stay home? And when most other towns don’t even charge for parking on Sundays? Please.
I’ll think twice about my choice the next time I need a place to shop.

Bernadette Suski Harding

Woman grateful

for support
To the editor:
I would like to thank my family and friends for the flowers, gifts and cards I received during my recent hospitalization.
It was very much appreciated.

MaryKay Myers