Councilman Votes Against Bond Ordinance Because of 'Gator'

Berkeley Heights Council President Marc Faecher voted against the Bond Ordinance because it included funds for a "gator" all terrain rescue vehicle. Credits: Barbara Rybolt

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The inclusion of a small emergency vehicle known as a “Gator” in the Capital Plan Bond Ordinance prompted Council President Marc Faecher to vote “No,” when the ordinance was introduced Tuesday, July 18, at the Township Council meeting.

He had previously expressed reservations about the need for the $23,500 all-terrain rescue vehicle, although it had the support of other council members. When the $1,742,000 bond ordinance was drafted, funds for the gator were included.

Faecher said he supported the bond ordinance with the exception of Item K – the gator. He questioned its usefulness in an emergency, since it might need to be “trailered” to the scene of the emergency, especially in a township as large as Berkeley Heights.

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Township Administrator John Bussiculo said “That vehicle is capable of going 40 mph on the street,” and it could be stored at the Rescue Squad when not needed.

Faecher said it would be difficult to get it through the township, “which is large,” adding, “I wouldn’t want to be driving at 40 miles per hour at night time” through the streets. The slow top speed and small size of the vehicle means the first responders will already be on scene before the gator arrives, he said.

Since the bond ordinance was being only introduced on Tuesday, “I will still get another chance to make my argument,” he said, referring to the public hearing on the ordinance. “We’ve done without it and can continue to do without it.”

The council was offered a choice of voting on the ordinance as it was written or to vote to remove item K, the gator. Members voted on the ordinance as it was presented and it passed with a lone “No” vote from Faecher.

Voting in favor of the ordinance, with the gator included, were Councilman Craig Pastore, who has supported the purchase of a gator for a number of years, and council members Manuel Couto, Michael D’Aquila and Jeanne Kingsley.

The ordinance itself appropriates $1,834,700 for various items, and authorizes the issuance of $1,742,000 in bonds to finance the cost of those purchases.  Among the items authorized are:

·         Various public works equipment: a tailgate roller, a side dump attachment and a 12-yard stainless steel salt spreader for $63,000;

·         Fire department equipment including air pack cylinders, pagers, thermal imaging camera, portable radios and more for $95,300;

·         Rescue squad communications equipment for $6,200;

·         Improvements to the wastewater treatment plant for $635,000;

·         Improvements to the fire department systems and facilities for $12,200

·         A roof for the rescue squad, digital signage and a decontamination area for $64,500;

·         Police department non-passenger vehicles for $110,000;

·         Public works non-passenger vehicles, including a backhoe and a hook truck with plow for $341,000;

·         Non-passenger vehicles for the wastewater treatment plant for $29,000;

·         Fire department non-passenger vehicles, a pickup truck and an engine, for $410,000;

·         The gator, $23,000;

·         Fire prevention non-passenger vehicles, including a sport utility vehicle and equipment for $45,000.

The public hearing on the ordinance will be held on Aug. 15, at the Township Council meeting.

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