"Fire safety is critical. It is really, really critical" stated Mayor Hinds.
HOLMDEL, NJ - The Holmdel Township Committee unanimously agreed to amend the 2019 municipal budget to finance up to five million for a new firehouse. The resolution, introduced by Mayor Hinds, would result in additional funds in the budget to build a new firehouse and add supplemental paid personnel to assist in rapid response to fire calls. It was passed unanimously.
New Jersey municipalities finance capital items such as firehouses, streets and road construction and other high ticket items through bonds. The budget typically includes a 5% down payment of the approximate amount required for the capital. In the example of a five million dollar firehouse, the Township would add an additional $250,000 to the budget.
Mayor Hinds stated that the budget will still be a 'zero budget' so the funds would be redirected from another source or estimates could be modified accordingly. After the budget is formally adopted in May, the Township can consider introducing a bond ordinance. A bond ordinance requires two readings. On first reading it is passed by a simple majority. On second reading, at least four members of the Township Committee must approve it.
Personnel funding was requested by Committeeman Pascucci.
"I applaud the five million for the firehouse. We need it now" said Committeeman Pascucci. "But I also believe we need, and I would like it added to the budget, at least $400,000 for paid people in the day...Monday through Friday (during the day) we are weak".
The request to add $400,000 would put the township above the budget cap, according to administration, so it was reduced to $275,000 to address Pascucci's concerns. Commiteeman Critelli agreed with Pascucci and the others followed suit.
See videos of the discussion here:
Committeeman Buontempo asked for more specifics as to what the money was for and discussed prior years funding. Discussion ensued on the funding already in place for a new fire truck for $753,000. There is also $500,000 available from a prior year, according to Buontempo. It is not clear how much a building or renovation would cost.
Said Hinds, "To this day Greg, we don't know...this was very late in the cycle. We don't know if a firehouse costs us three million or seven million, it's going to take planning, we have to get the architect involved and the engineer. We need the location.
Holmdel has lost several homes to fire in recent years and there is a keen interest on fire safety by the community. A formal study was also conducted on behalf of the Township Committee. The action today follows several areas of professional guidance from the report. Namely, a properly equipped firehouse and the manpower to effectively run it 24/7.
Also included are 55 emergency response radios. The supplemental paid personnel would be under the Department of Community Development, according to the Township Administrator. The location of the firehouse is still a matter to be decided but two locations mentioned most are the existing site at Crawfords Corner Road, or the farm at F and F Nurseries.
F and F Nurseries was purchased years ago to preserve farmland and open space. Any discussion on building on this farming site instead of renovating an existing site may be more complicated for the Township Committee.
Mayor Hinds referenced that the engineer and other professionals would be key in site selection discussions and much work is still to be done.
The public hearing for the budget will be held in May.