MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Maplewood will be in charge of overseeing the new merged fire department with South Orange, according to Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, who offered an update Tuesday on the coming marriage of the two departments expected to occur this year.

Speaking during the regular Maplewood Township Committee meeting, DeLuca said Maplewood would be the “lead agency” once the two entities combine, noting all fire department staff would become employees of Maplewood.

“We will be absorbing firefighters from South Orange in to a newly named Maplewood and South Orange Fire Department,” Deluca explained. “That is the framework. We have a lot more to do and we have a lot more people to speak to.”

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He did not explain how funding for the South Orange firefighters would be provided, but it is assumed South Orange would continue paying their salaries and other divided costs.

South Orange Village President Sheena Collum did not respond to requests for comment on the merger Thursday.

DeLuca stressed that the same three current firehouses – two in Maplewood, one in South Orange – would continue to operate with the same staffing levels, equipment use and shift schedules.

The merger follows last year’s feasibility study of the idea by Manitou, Inc. of Peekskill, NY, which was hired jointly by the two towns to review the economic and response impact of a joint department.

In its October 2017 report, Manitou recommended a merger, declaring it could save up to $1.6 million for the two communities. But the report stressed that that much savings would likely include some staffing cuts. 

The report offered two other scenarios for lesser savings and fewer staff cuts.

“There’s a lot more to work on,” DeLuca said. “But just wanted to give you some of the particulars.”

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