BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ— Mayor Angie Devanney and Fire Chief Anthony Padovano announced today that they are committed to working together to tackle the challenges facing the Berkeley Heights Fire Department. Both officials noted that recruitment and retention have been a consistent problem, not just in Berkeley Heights, but state and nationwide.
Last year, the fire company provided a presentation to the Township Council to launch an incentive program. According to fire department documents and based on performance of fire department members in 2018, the program will cost the Township approximately $300,000, or approximately $32 per residential taxpayer.
Mayor Devanney commented, “while this is a lofty goal that cannot be sustained in one budget year, we are committed to working in concert to try to increase volunteerism within the Berkeley Heights Fire Department. The Township is acutely aware of the problem and it cannot be solved over-night.”
Collaboration between the Mayor’s Office and Fire Department includes a new plan and commitment by BHFD and Fire Company for an aggressive paid social media campaign and community campaign for fire department recruitment paid for by donations. Further, the Chief and Mayor announced their support of Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) for long-term fire fighter volunteers on the ballot next year.
Further, the two officials also condemn politicizing the issue of volunteerism retention and recruitment on social media which has occurred over the last few days. Asking, instead, for the community’s partnership and assistance in fundraising for the department.
“Over the last two years, my administration along with the Council has spent $1.6 Million on capital and operating expenses for the Berkeley Heights Fire Department. The Township Council and I are committed to ensuring the department thrives,” commented Mayor Devanney
“Additionally, I have met with the Chief, Deputy Chief and Fire Company President on the proposed Incentive Program and have been transparent in our budget shortfalls due to the global pandemic, but have committed to a phased approached as our taxpayers’ dollars are available,” conclude Devanney
Chief Padovano noted, “I look forward to working with the Mayor and Council in creating a program that helps to drive up our membership. We recognize that we must not lay this on the shoulders of the Township but need to be creative and aggressive in our own recruitment efforts.”
“We must find new and imaginative ways to take care of our volunteer first line responders. That’s why I also reached out to our state legislators to work on a bill that will prioritize first responders on our affordable housing list since we are building 300+ brand new affordable units in the next few years,” added Mayor Devanney.
For more information and to make a donation, please visit the Fire Department website at berkeleyheightsfire.com/donate.