HAMILTON, NJ -- After years of public debate and studies, the consolidation of Hamilton's fire districts could come as soon as the end of the year.
On Tuesday the Hamilton Township Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the Local Finance Board to apply for approval to dissolve the individual fire districts and move toward a unified fire agency under the Township's control.
Council President Rick Tighe said "this is an ongoing process, but we are taking another big step forward in fire district consolidation."
In 2017, following the launch of an effort by the two local firefighters unions 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.
“For decades Hamilton’s politicians have found reasons not to proceed with consolidation of our fire department, sometimes simply because it was too hard,” Nick Buroczi, president of Hamilton FMBA Local 284 said. “Mayor Jeff Martin and the members of the council have shown that they aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get the job they were elected to do.”
Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin told TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville that the Township is hoping to have the consolidation completed before 2020 is over. A critical piece of the process, he said, is streamlining the taxes to avoid complicated tax assessments.
"The Administration and Council are working together to move consolidation along so it is complete this year," said Martin. "I thank Council for taking the first step by introducing an ordinance so that we can begin to submit information to the State (DCA and Civil Service) so the State can begin to review our submissions and provide feedback.
"We continue to have ongoing conversations with both DCA and Civil Service to complete consolidation this year," added Martin.
Acknowledging that the process is far from over Dave Krueger, president of Hamilton FMBA Local 84, added of the effort the unions undertook on the issue that “from day one we said this was about making our community safer.”
“This isn’t an easy process for either side,” Krueger said, offering a litany of previously earned benefits their members have conceded to move consolidation forward, “yet we are getting closer to making that goal a reality.”
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