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HONESDALE, PA — Two issues dominated the March 11 meeting of the Honesdale Borough Council: ambulance service for Wayne County and the borough of Honesdale, and four months of unacknowledged complaints by neighbors about a blighted property that ultimately caught fire.
Five neighbors of a West Street rental house that burned in December asked the council why no enforcement action was taken against an inhabited property that seemed tailor-made for the borough’s new quality-of-life ordinance. Citing numerous potential code violations, ranging from hoarding-style refuse buildup outside to occupancy of uninhabitable interior spaces, the neighbors complained of way too many cars parked outside the house for the number of inhabitants, alleged by its absentee landlord, to be residing in the house.
When neighbors complained to the landlord, who resides in New Jersey, that his property appeared to be housing more inhabitants than he claimed it did, nothing changed. Neighbors also noticed lights in the window of an unfinished attic space. “Cars came and went at all hours,” complained one neighbor.
In the fire’s wake, one neighbor claimed an unsafe extension cord was discovered to have been run to the attic to heat and light a space not designed for occupancy.
Another neighbor offered the landlord both her tools and her know-how to clean the yard.
Despite all of the neighbors claiming to have begun lodging complaints with the borough as far back as August 2018, borough president Mike Augello said this was the first he and other council members had heard of it. Borough secretary-manager Judy Poltanis told the concerned neighbors that the borough’s code enforcement agency had recently found the property in compliance with all borough ordinances. Neighbors asked what complaint form should be used and to whom it should be submitted now that the house has been renovated and will soon be ready for occupancy again.
In other business, emergency management coordinator Stan Pratt followed up on his presentation two months ago regarding commercial ambulance service within the borough. At that time, he said there was a possibility that the borough’s sole commercial ambulance service, Commonwealth Health Emergency Medical Services, might scale back or discontinue its service in Wayne County. Since that time, Commonwealth has made two public statements reaffirming its commitment to continue ambulance service to both the county and the borough.
Pratt noted, however, that Commonwealth has, in the interim, scheduled and canceled two meetings with borough officials, saying that the cancelations were due to unavailability of key Commonwealth participants. Via email on March 18, Commonwealth spokesperson
Annmarie Poslock said, “Commonwealth Health is grateful for the opportunity to continue discussions with the Borough of Honesdale regarding the benefits of Commonwealth Health Emergency Medical Services.”
When asked why Commonwealth had discontinued its life flight helicopter service to/from Wayne Memorial Hospital’s heliport on Fair Avenue, Commonwealth’s statement read: “Commonwealth Health Emergency Management Services has ended air transport services to focus solely on ground transportation. Commonwealth One—the emergency medical helicopter service contracted through Air Methods—will no longer be in operation in order to streamline and better utilize resources. Several other entities offer air transport services for our communities in northeast Pennsylvania, and we are confident that these providers are able to meet the community’s current and future needs.”
The major benefit of a commercial ambulance service is that it offers advanced life support administered by paramedics, while volunteer ambulance services usually can offer only basic life support administered by EMTs.