PLYMOUTH — U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta learned about issues facing Plymouth on Thursday and he stopped by Goodwill Hose Co. No. 2 to let members know that recently passed legislation won’t require them to provide health insurance for their volunteer personnel.
After talking to the firefighters, Barletta, R-Hazleton, went to several businesses on the Main Street, talking to store owners, customers and residents along the way.
“As a former mayor, I can relate to what these towns are dealing with every day,” Barletta said. “I want them to know that somebody is at least listening to them and I will do whatever I can to help.”
Mayor Dorothy Petrosky has been in office for 13 years and said this was the first time a congressman visited her town to listen to her concerns.
“Over lunch we talked about Plymouth and the issues we have,” she said. “I told him we need funding to hire more police officers, we need help in dealing with absentee landlords and we need help in dealing with drug trafficking.”
Those are big-ticket items for a small town with a small budget, Petrosky said, and Barletta wasn’t sure how he could help.
“But at least he’s listening,” Petrosky said. “And he knows what we’re facing. That’s important, I think.”
Barletta said he will do what he can and search for answers for the West Side town.
He talked to representatives of the borough’s three fire companies about the recent passage of the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, which passed the House unanimously.
The act, written by Barletta, is meant to protect emergency personnel from the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act.
He said under the act, businesses with 50 or more employees must provide their workers with health care benefits. Barletta says if volunteer firefighters are considered employees, fire departments would never be able to afford the additional costs and could be forced to close their doors.
Bob Miller and Rob Meyers, the borough’s two full-time firetruck drivers, met with Barletta, along with firefighters Josh Evans, Lori Bolesta and Joe Hudak.
“That legislation was huge for us,” Meyers said. “We could never support health insurance for that many members.”
Each of the three fire companies operates with about 30 volunteers, Miller said. There are four part-time drivers as well, and the three departments are critical to the borough’s fire protection, Petrosky said.
Barletta visited Bednarski Furniture, Turkey Hill and Today’s Treasures antique shop on his Main Street tour.
“I wanted to hear what issues they were dealing with as well,” Barletta said. “All of this input is kept in my office and used when looking for support for small businesses.”