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3/18/2016 - HAMILTON FIREFIGHTERS SUBMIT PETITIONS TO MOVE FIRE CONSOLIDATION PROCESS FORWARD

 

HAMILTON FIREFIGHTERS SUBMIT PETITIONS TO MOVE FIRE CONSOLIDATION PROCESS FORWARD

  

Earlier today, Friday, March 18, Hamilton firefighters  represented by Hamilton FMBA Locals 84 and 284 turned in over 2,500 signatures to Hamilton Township Mayor Kelly Yaede and the Hamilton Township Municipal Clerk for certification. These petitions were collected as directed under state statute so that the Township of Hamilton can proceed with efforts to consolidate their existing nine fire districts into 1. The announcement took place at the Hamilton municipal Building. 

“In October of 2015 we set out to educate the residents of Hamilton Township about the need to consolidate fire districts” stated Nick Buroczi, President, Hamilton FMBA Local 284. “As we promised, we took the issue street to street and door to door, and the response has been overwhelming. This does not signal an end to our efforts, but rather the just a new beginning.” 

Hamilton’s fire service is currently provided by nine separate fire districts, each with their own budgets, paid commissioners, and professional service providers. The five member Board of Commissioners from each district set their own budgets and tax rates, approved in elections held in February in which less than 100 voters typically cast ballots. Despite the tremendous growth of Hamilton Township, now the 9th most populated town in New Jersey, spread out over 40 square miles, the fire maps which determine response and coverage have not been updated in over 100 years. 

“Today is a historic day for Hamilton Township as we collectively move forward to achieve something that is over a hundred years in the making – the consolidation of our community’s fire districts,” says Hamilton Township Mayor Kelly Yaede.  “I want to thank the cooperative efforts of the FMBA and all of Hamilton’s firefighters.  Now, thanks to the submitted petitions, as well as the State Department of Community Affairs which graciously accepted my request to conduct a study, we can ensure that our fire service system is efficient, cost-effective and safe by an independent, objective expert.  I am eager for everyone involved to move forward in a collaborative manner so that we can achieve the best results possible for the taxpayers of our community.” 

Under state law, the consolidation of fire districts requires the signatures of 5% of voters from each district, the submitted signatures will now be reviewed by the Municipal Clerk for eventual certification. While discussions will continue on how best to consolidate these districts, with assistance from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, the goal is to create one fire district with voters electing one Board of Commissioners who would be responsible for setting one annual fire services budget and spreading the costs of services our evenly among all Township property taxpayers. 

“We launched this effort on the basis that fire service in Hamilton Township should not be provided to residents based on arbitrary lines on a map,” stated Mike Kiernan, President, FMBA Local 84. “Through these petitions the residents have spoken, and will continue to have an opportunity to help shape the future of the Hamilton Fire Department. We look forward to continuing to work with anyone that wants to move forward in a positive way on this issue.”