13 July, 1984
Firemen call for extension of chief’s car use privilege
by Maria LoBiondo
Local firefighters lobbied municipal leaders Tuesday to allow fire chiefs to drive the chief’s official car home at night.
This would mean the chief could drive directly to a fire scene, rather than stop at the fire station first to pick up the official car, said firefighter Mark Freda, speaking for the department.
An ordinance change under consideration by council members requires the chief’s vehicle to remain in the borough or township’s limits unless there’s direct approval of the borough administrator.
“Clint (Clint Groover, the current fire chief) hasn’t taken the car so it has just been sitting,” Mr. Freda explained.
The chiefs car, purchased in 1980, originally was meant to be a “command post” for use only in the regional fire area, said Mark Gordon, the borough’s administrator.
Mr. Groover, a Lawrenceville resident, could not attend the meeting. His residence is about eight miles from the Princeton boundary, according to approximations by a Lawrence Township police spokeswoman.
An ordinance passed in October 1983 lifts the six-mile residency limit for those who were department members as of June 1982. They and auxiliary members must live within a 12-mile limit.
Theoretically, the chief is on call 24 hours a day, Mr. Freda said. He would have access to the car “99 percent” of the time, but leave it at the station for the next in command if he’s not available.
Other “official business” for allowed uses of the car outside borough and township borders should include mutual aid calls, related meetings and parades, Mr. Freda said.
“We believe we can police the use of the car so there’s no shopping trips or picking up the kids at school,” he added.
“Who would pay for the gas,” Mayor Barbara Sigmund asked, if the firefighters’ request is approved.
“The chief pays,” Mr. Freda answered, for more than the one tank of gas per month budgeted now by the borough.
Mayor Sigmund said explicit wording on allowing the chief to take the car home if he lives within the regional limit, who can use the car when the chief is not available and naming specific “official business” is needed in the ordinance.
A public hearing on the matter will be held by council on Aug. 14.
Council also will consider how disciplinary actions of firefighters should be handled as part of the same ordinance.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Irvin Urken suggested the mayor and council may be the appropriate “objective” body to hear cases.
However, the firefighters would prefer to hold hearings “in house” if needed, according to Mr. Freda. The Fire Department’s Board of Engineers should be authorized to reprimand, suspend or expel a member for infractions of the department’s rules or the borough and township code.
Possible infractions include being under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs while operating a fire department vehicle or operating a vehicle without being properly qualified by the department.
Mr. Freda said the firefighters weren’t prepared to discuss this at length Tuesday, but will be prepared at the August meeting.