SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The South Orange Board of Trustees and the Maplewood Township Committee have both authorized a study to be conducted to determine the feasibility of merging, or sharing, the South Orange and Maplewood Municipal Fire Protection Services, according to a joint release from the Village of South Orange and the Township of Maplewood.
According to the release, on July 11, the South Orange Board of Trustees unanimously authorized a Resolution awarding a contract to Manitou Incorporated to conduct “an analysis of the operational efficiencies of and the feasibility of consolidation, merger or sharing of South Orange and Maplewood’s Municipal Fire Protection Services."
On Tues., July 25, the Maplewood Township Council also approved the contract, making the study of the two fire departments possible, stated the release.
The release also states that Manitou, the consulting form selected to complete the study, is "a leading consulting firm that is nationally recognized in the field of fire protection and emergency services organization, administration and planning," and that Manitou "has conducted numerous fire service studies, including consolidation and efficiency studies for communities as large as Houston, Texas and Broward County, Florida."
“The Joint Committee was extremely impressed with Manitou. We are confident that they will conduct a thorough and objective assessment of both Departments, with no predefined outcomes, to identify opportunities for our residents to receive better and more cost effective Fire Services, whether through improvements to the independent operations of each department or through sharing, consolidation or merger of equipment, personnel or operations," stated Sheena Collum, South Orange Village President.
Maplewood Mayor Victor De Luca agreed, "The goal of our towns is to deliver the highest quality fire services to both communities. We believe Manitou will help us creatively think about the best ways to do that. All stakeholders will be heard as we move forward and we will fully engage the community in considering the recommendations from Manitou."
The award of the contract is the result of a process which began in September, 2015, when South Orange and Maplewood adopted companion Resolutions authorizing and creating a Joint Exploratory Committee for the purpose of exploring possible efficiencies in the delivery of Fire Services to their communities through possible shared, consolidated, or merged services. The Resolutions identified the following goals:
- To provide the highest quality fire services to the residents of South Orange and Maplewood
- To maintain an appropriate level of firefighting personnel and equipment to adequately respond to fire, emergency and hazardous incidents in South Orange and Maplewood, and
- To achieve economic and operational efficiencies.
The Joint Committee eventually recommended the solicitation of competitive bids from qualified firms which ultimately resulted in the selection of Manitou to conduct the study. The total contract amount is not to exceed $47,513, which will be split equally by the two towns.
The study, which will include on site investigations, department interviews, review of department data, and stakeholder input, will evaluate the current independent operations of the two departments for efficiencies and opportunities to improve services and control or reduce costs, through possible sharing of equipment, personnel, or services, or through possible consolidation or merger of operations.
The study should begin within the next month, and it is anticipated that the entire study and final report will be completed within six months.