HAMILTON, NJ -- After many years of back-and-forth negotiations and political battles the final bell will ring for the antiquated local fire service made up of nine separate fire districts as the new year ushers in the new Hamilton Township Fire Department (HFD.)
“This final transition to the Hamilton Fire Department shows what is possible when public safety takes precedence over politics,” Nick Buroczi and Dave Krueger, presidents of FMBA Locals 84 and 284 said. “Hamilton residents are even safer today than they were yesterday, and that’s what this effort was all about.”
Beginning in 2017, the two local firefighter unions launched a petition drive that secured thousands of signatures from residents seeking the change, a Fire District Consolidation Study was completed by the State Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services. In addition, public input was sought on the consolidation. However, former Mayor Kelly Yaede did not move forward with the consolidation.
One Hamilton firefighter who will begin his final shift at 7:00am at his longtime “home” firehouse home said that he will serve the first half of his 24-hour shift and then report to his new “home” at a different firehouse at 7:00pm. Other personnel will only serve a 12-hour shift during the day and overnight hours of Thursday into Friday to ease the transition to the new department.
The firefighters were asked in November for their preference in which firehouse they would like to serve. The majority of firefighters were assigned to either their first or second choice of their new fire houses. There will be six engine companies and two truck companies under the new structure.
“The NJFMBA is proud to have been part of this effort and of the hard work our members in Hamilton put in to make it happen,” Eddie Donnelly, president of the NJFMBA. “Mayor Jeff Martin and the Hamilton Township Council deserve praise for succeeding whether others had repeatedly failed.”
With the dissolution of separate fire districts, the tax rate paid by residents throughout Hamilton Township for their fire services will be equalized. Currently, the fire district tax rate varies between 16 cents per $100 if assessed home value to 77 cents per $100.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Martin and the Township Council to make ours the best fire department in the state,” added Buroczi and Krueger.
The Hamilton Township Firefighters will be sworn in as member of the Fire Department beginning at 9:00 am on Friday. The department will be headed up by Fire Chief Rich Kraemer.
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