Tussle Brewing Between Township & Borough Over Firehouse Repairs, New Telesquirt Truck

November 25, 1992

Tussle Brewing Between Township & Borough Over Firehouse Repairs, New Telesquirt Truck

A tussle is in the making between Township and Borough over funding the Fire Department — capital expenditures as well as maintenance and operating costs.

Like many other joint Borough/Township agencies, the Fire Department has traditionally been funded on the basis of tax rateables. At present, 66 percent of the total tax-able rateables in the community are in the Township, 34 in the Borough. Thus the Township pays two-thirds of the Fire Department’s annual operating and capital budget and the Borough one third.

The two municipalities have managed to put off addressing some big ticket capital re-quests that the Fire Department has made over the past several years. One involves badly needed repairs at the two firehouses located in the Borough. The other is for the acquisition of a new firetruck to replace a 20-year-old pumper.

The administrators of both Borough and Township recently reviewed and approved both requests as deferred items in the 1992 capital budget. The estimated total for the repairs is $66,000; for a new telesquirt firetruck it is $420,000. Bond ordinances were drawn up stipulating that the Township would pay $44,000 of the repairs, the Borough $22,000. The Town-ship would pay $280,000 of the cost of the telesquirt, the Borough $120,000.

Borough Council voted 5 to I in early November to…

approve bonding both items. contingent on Township approval. Township Committee is balking at paying two-thirds of repairs to firehouses located in the Borough when it has no equity/ ownership in either. Committee members are also reluctant to pay $280,000 for the telesquirt, partly again on owner-ship/equity grounds and partly for other reasons.

Committeeman Laurence Glasberg thinks three firehouses in the community are probably more than are needed. At the very least he would like to see two fire companies merge and jointly occupy the new firehouse on Witherspoon Street, which has four bays, two of which are currently empty.

In addition he is not convinced that purchasing the tele-squirt firetruck is the most cost-efficient alternative to the problems posed by the aging pumper 621. In his view the cost vs. benefits of repairing the pumper. estimated at $90,000, and the cost vs. benefits of purchasing a new pumper at roughly $260,000 have not been sufficiently analyzed.

According to Fire Chief Joseph Meyers, the firemen feel that purchasing the tele-squirt truck at $420,000, fully equipped, would be a better in-vestment for the Department than repairing the 20-year-old pumper, or buying a new one. Mr. Meyers told Committee that among the advantages of the telesquirt are its greater pumping capacity and an articulating boom with a nozzle that can deliver water in an adjustable fog or a straight stream.

Easily Maneuvered

The telesquirt is easily maneuvered in tight places in the Borough as well as the long driveways in the Township, Mr. Meyer said, and it has a separate tank for foam. “It can be used for car fires as well as large-scale fires,” he added. He also said it is safer to operate and can be handled by one less person than can a pumper.

Mr. Mever told Committee he could understand its quandary over whether to fund repairs at Hook & Ladder and Engine Co. No. 1 firehouses when it doesn’t own the buildings, but he urged the members to “duke it out”’ with the Borough so that the Fire Department is not caught in the middle without funding for capital expenses it believes are badly needed.

Mr. Glasberg was given a tour of the two firehouses with Mr. Meyer and was more amenable to the repairs than he had been a week ago. He voted for introducing the bond ordinance with compromise wording suggested by Township Administrator James Pascale but said the “strategic question of whether we need  three firehouses”’ still remains. In the compromise the words “up to” are to be inserted in front of dollar amounts on the theory that if the cost sharing arrangements are changed in the Township’s favor, the Township amount could be lowered, the Borough amount raised.

Mr. Glasberg voted against introducing the bond ordinance for the telesquirt, and so did Committeewoman Ellen Souter, who wants to hold out for a change in the funding ratio as well as ownership in the buildings. Committeeman Fred Porter called for a meeting with the Borough to go over the Interlocal Services Agreement, the legal document that will make the de facto joint Fire Department a joint agency legally. Public hearing on the two bond ordinances was set for December 21.

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