State Fire Study Continues in Ongoing Consolidation Effort
Despite the ongoing collection of signatures and certification process by the Municipal Clerk and Mercer County Board of Elections, Hamilton Township Mayor Kelly Yaede says the State study she requested is continuing and will not be delayed.
“The Division of Local Government Services is continuing the study of how to best organize our community’s eventual, consolidated fire system with the cooperation and assistance of Hamilton’s Fire District officials,” explains Mayor Yaede. “Even if the petition and certification process is slower than we all would like, it will not slow the State study and will not deter our consolidation efforts.
“Hamilton’s taxpayers want results; and I hear their call for reform,” says Yaede. “Together, we will make consolidation a reality - based upon a sound study of how to best organize the new system – so our community’s families enjoy fire service that is efficient, cost-effective and that keeps them safe.”
In October of 2015, Mayor Yaede requested that an independent study be conducted by NJ Division of Local Government Services – at no cost to Hamilton’s taxpayers – to provide a blueprint for the community’s ultimate goal of consolidating Hamilton’s nine separate fire districts. That same month, Mayor Yaede announced that the State division agreed to conduct the study.
As part of the continuing study, Don Huber, the NJ Division of Local Government Services representative heading the review, requested that Hamilton’s fire districts have formed work groups to provide further information in the areas of Volunteers (firefighters), Budgets/Information Technology/Communications, Apparatus and Equipment, Training and Safety, Fire Houses and Infrastructure, Fire Officials and Local Enforcement. In June, the work groups will provide reports to Huber.
“The fire districts have been cooperatively working with our Division as part of this process as we continue to gather information that can provide a blue print for the future of fire services in Hamilton Township,” says Huber.
Hamilton’s Municipal Clerk recently provided an update regarding the certification process. Already, Fire District 9 (Groveville) has achieved the minimum number of signatures needed – five percent of its registered voters – which would then allow the Township Council to dissolve the district. Petitions for District 7 (Mercerville) are currently under review by the Municipal Clerk’s Office. Hamilton’s Municipal Clerk reported on the remaining number of signatures needed in the remaining Fire Districts, most of which require between 114 and 180 more signatures to meet the minimum threshold. The lone exception – Fire District 5 (DeCou) – needs fewer than 20 additional signatures.
Once each district reaches the minimum signature requirement, the matter would then be presented to the Township Council, who subsequently would begin to schedule public hearings on the consolidation of the fire districts.
“The petition and certification process – however long it will take – is simply the necessary means to the inevitable consolidation of our community’s Fire Districts. It does not matter why the process is taking as long as it is; and pointing fingers to determine who is at fault for the process’ length is counterproductive and irrelevant,” says Mayor Yaede. “Our local Fire District officials, union representatives, firefighters and I all share the same goal of a new, consolidated system. I want to thank Mr. Huber, the Division of Local Government Services and all of our community’s fire service personnel who have remained cooperative partners in this important effort for their relentless determination to achieve meaningful reform.”