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Commissioner: Fire Elections Support Volunteers

Residents can vote on fire district budgets Saturday.

Firefighting is a dangerous job that can involve rescuing people from crushed cars, clearing trees, helping evacuate residents during floods and extinguishing fires, Pine Brook fire commissioner and firefighter Tony Speciale said.

"It's not an easy thing to do," he said. "It comes down to training, procedures. It's not like you just walk into this."

Speciale on Wednesday said voters should support their annual fire district elections because the fire budgets support the town's volunteer firefighters.

He said a flier that was distributed in town saying fire districts are an inefficient use of tax dollars, and compared Montville Township's fire expenses to Wayne's, did not take into account all of Wayne's spending on fire services, Speciale said.

Montville Township has three 100-year-old volunteer fire departments—Montville, Towaco and Pine Brook. It also has seven buildings that serve as firehouses, and millions of dollars in equipment to maintain, Speciale said.

Each district has a five-member board of fire commissioners that creates budgets and collects taxes each year. Every February, residents can vote on the commissioner candidates and proposed budgets for their districts, though turnout historically is low.

Combined, the districts collect about $1.75 million a year in taxes, which are part of homeowners' property tax bills.

The elections drew increased attention last year because voters rejected the proposed Towaco fire district budget for the first time in history.

Speciale said issues which led to the defeat last year of the budget in the Towaco fire district, which had a full-time administrator for 20 years while the other districts did not, have been addressed.

While the firefighters work for free to save lives and property, Speciale said, the districts' training, equipment, trucks, insurance, workers' compensation, maintenance costs and fire prevention bureaus all cost money.

Speciale said commissioners from the three Montville Township districts meet quarterly and look for ways to share services to save costs.

"We want to keep it going like this for another 100 years," he said.

John February 16, 2012 at 07:14 PM
I don't understand any of your comments. So all of you are going to go down to your local District this weekend and vote down the budget because you think if it was town run, we could save all this money? Really?? You say no more loans or bonds, I agree if possible, but do you understand how much a truck costs these days? Do you really think the town has all of these capital reserves set aside to support 3 dept's where trucks cost in excess of $500k? Do you not think these depts don't have reserves for this? Guess what, they do. Have any of you seen Pine Brooks trucks? Other then their ladder, the other ones are all more then 10 yrs old, 3 of them from the 70's. have any of you ever attended a Commissioners mtg that is open to the public every month where you can ask these questions? I have for Pine Brook and they are a well run organization. Please don't just make a gut decision on this, you are jeapordizing the rest of us who truely appreciate the services that these volunteer men and woman provide 24 hrs a day 365 days a year. Trust me, I know for a fact as these guys spent a week helping us during the floods and would never forget that, you shouldn't either. The few pennies it costs me are well worth the return in my book.
Dan Grant February 16, 2012 at 08:01 PM
The people who talk of "Large Budgets" have no idea what they are talking about. This Township collects over $90 million in total taxes. These departments are the best bargain in the Township. They are serviced by the volunteers who are unpaid. This attack started in Towaco and now seems to be spreading. It is clear that the attackers don't have a clue how much the alternative would cost them.
David February 17, 2012 at 03:34 AM
I truly cannot believe the comments. Why is it people move into town and then can't wait to change everything about the town to make it more like the place they came from. The fire districts were established many years ago for a reason. That reason was to keep politics out of fire protection. To ensure the money was there for equipment and needs of the department. Take a look around at all the towns that control the FD's. What is the first thingthey want to cut when times get tough... These folks volunteer and show up in snow, rain, storms and times when you would not think about leaving your house. How about we just say Thank You and keep up the good work.
Dan Grant February 17, 2012 at 04:39 PM
You are right David, I said last year when Towaco FD came under attack that it would spread and it has. Not one word from the Township Committee membership in defense of the Fire Districts who do a great job. Last year they cut Towaco by 10 percent and didn't have a clue as to what effect that would have on operations. Instead of leading they will play to the worst instincts of people.
We care February 19, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Thanks to all the residents who supported the men and women of are fire districts and thanks to Dan Grant and others who know the truth about our budgets and how low cost to the township tax payers it truly is, and how highly rated Montville fire department are with the underwriter insurance company, saving home owners on fire insurance cost for both residents and commerce buildings. We maintain 7 fire houses and 10 mils dollars of fire equipment every year for last then it cost another township budget.

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