2017-02-18 / Front Page

Training plan faces uphill battle

Austin Borough is the latest local government body to shy away from a five-year financial commitment being requested by promoters of a proposed emergency services curriculum at the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 Career and Technical Center (CTC) in Port Allegany.

Organizers of the project have asked local governments to provide $2,000 annually during a five-year “start-up period.” That’s based on the concept that townships and boroughs benefit from having vibrant volunteer fire and ambulance service

Austin Borough Council members tabled the request at this month’s meeting.

Not every local government is taking a dim view. At last month’s meeting, Smethport Borough Council voted to approve the five-year allotment.

However, an informal survey conducted by Endeavor News found that most township supervisors and borough council members are either opposed to the plan, or hesitant to make a commitment, and are questioning whether the training is needed.

“There is already a wide array of training options for anyone who’s willing to commit to serving as a volunteer firefighter or an emergency medical technician,” said a township official in Potter County. “The problem is not a lack of training, but a lack of people willing to volunteer to start with.”

CTC director James Young said there is no available space for additional classes at the center. But he hastened to add that this type of program could be delivered at satellite locations in communities.

Work on the plan began last year when a 12-member Occupations Advisory Committee was assembled. Members envision training in the curriculum, tentatively titled “Homeland Security,” could include not only firefighting and emergency medical technician skills, but also criminal justice, public safety and related subjects that can lead to employment in those fields.

School districts in Potter, Cameron, McKean and Elk counties have been approached for their support. County commissioners are also being courted for their support.

Among those initially involved are Lori Reed in Cameron County, Susan Kefover in Potter and Carol Duffy in McKean.

A public meeting has been planned for Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport to share details of the proposal and solicit support.

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