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Council approves new assistant fire chief, captain

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jan 17 2013 10:57:03 PM CST
NORTHAMPTON, Pa. -

Two new appointments in the leadership ranks of Northampton's volunteer fire company were enthusiastically approved by borough council Thursday night.

Keith Knoblach officially became the fire company's new assistant chief, replacing Chris Greb, who resigned, and Ryan Shelly took over Knoblach's spot as captain. After council gave its blessing, both men were sworn in by Mayor Thomas Reenock.

Council members each took a moment to congratulate the men. "We're proud to see these young men step up and serve the community," said council member Edward Pany, a retired history teacher who had Knoblach as a student. "It makes teaching worthwhile when you see what is produced at Northampton [Area] High School -- real Konkrete Kids!"

Council member Anthony Lopsonzski Sr. said, "It's good to see young people are beginning to [find] a niche they can fill and go where old knees cannot go," adding, "Young blood in our service organizations [will bring] a lot of ambition, drive and new ideas to them."

Knoblach is 31 and has been with the company for 15 years. Shelly is
24 and has 10 years of service with the company.

In other business, borough manager Gene Zarayko said council will likely be asked at its Feb. 7 meeting for final approval of a plan that will turn the old Tama Manufacturing building at 18th and Main streets into 13 two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The borough planning commission gave conditional approval to the project last week, but the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has yet to sign off on it, Zarayko said.

The building has been vacant for about 15 years, since the women's garment manufacturing operation there was moved to Mexico, Zarayko noted.

Mayor Reenock reported to council about his visit Wednesday to Washington, D.C., as a part of a conference sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Reenock said he was in a group of mayors from California, Michigan, Ohio, Delaware, Florida and New England that lobbied members of Congress to make criminal background checks on gun buyers mandatory; get military assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines off the streets, and make illegal gun trafficking a federal crime.

"It's not about taking away anybody's guns," said Reenock. "It's about putting in safety factors. ... It's a common sense safety agenda."

When asked by a council member what he thought the chances are of Congress passing such legislation, Reenock replied, "My guess is, it's a long shot. But we'll see."