Commissioners to consider five-year term for fire chief

22 June 1983

Commissioners to consider five-year term for fire chief

by Martha T. Moore
Staff Writer

Relocation of the Chambers Street firehouse, a longer term of office for the Princeton fire chief and a paid full-time fire inspector were on the agenda Tuesday as the Princeton Fire Commission considered changes now being discussed by the members of Princeton’s three volunteer fire companies.

“By the time you learn it. you’re out,” Richard Woodbridge. borough fire commissioner, said of the current one-year term for the fire chief.

“The chief doesn’t really learn the job as well as he should.” The
responsibilities of the position “have grown to the point where one year has not been enough to be adequately prepared for the job.” he added

“The continuity of the job is lost.” said Fire Chief William Rodweller. “It keeps everything in disruption.”

A proposal to extend the term of the fire chief from one year to five, with optional resignation after three years, was presented by former fire, chief Peter Hodge at Tuesday’s meeting. , “Rather than say it’s a deficiency in the department. I think it’s something that could be shored up a little,’’ he said of the current one year term.

But Mr. Woodbridge noted that with a one-year term, more firemen had the
opportunity to become chief, and “God knows you need as many incentives as you can in these volunteer organizations,” he said.

While the fire companies’ Board of Engineers has endorsed “the concept of extending the chiefs term,” Mr. Hodge said, details of a proposal remain to be worked out with the firemen.

The hiring of a fire inspector would also case the job of the chief, Mr. Hodge said. A memorandum from borough engineer George C. Olexa Jr. noted that there is more than enough work for a full-time inspector, Mr. Woodbridge said.

Presently, fire chiefs must do the job. “I really don’t feel qualified. I
know I’m not qualified.” said former chief Ray Wadsworth. “If I go out and make an inspection, is it a valid inspection?”

The fire commission voted to recommend to Borough Council that a full-time paid inspector be hired.

The commission also recommended further study of the possible relocation of one of the fire companies. All three fire houses are located in the borough.
Mercer Engine Company No. 3, located on Chambers Street, is the most likely candidate for relocation, Mr Woodbridge said.

“That’s the one that has the most problems,” Chief Rodwelkr agreed. Relocation, he added, “has to be done in order to maintain the effectiveness of the fire department.”

Due to heavy downtown traffic, “firemen trying to answer the alarm can’t get to the firehouse. Once they get there there’s no place to leave their cars. Then they have a problem getting the fire equipment out,” Chief Rodweller said.

But before any decision in made, “we ought to make sure No. 3 is 100 percent behind it,” Mr. Woodbridge said.

The Chambers Street firemen “would be willing to relocate,” according to Chief Rodweller.

If the fire company is moved, “a township site is a distinct possibility,” Mr. Woodbridge said. But rather than simply moving the company to a new site.”the real question is what is the best distribution of fire companies in the borough of Princeton,” he added, recommending a “more cosmic look at the whole situation. There are other things that could happen.”

Rules and regulations for the fire companies have been revised and sent to borough attorney Edwin Schmierer for codification before being submitted to the borough council for approval, Chief Rodweller told the commission.

There are no major changes in the new rules. Mr. Woodbridge said. “It’s like getting your hair cut.” he said of the revision. “You have to do it sometime. ’ ‘

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