In a file photo from 2019, Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin is pictured with Hamilton Firefighters Dave Krueger, Nick Buroczi, and Steve Dixon. Photo by Michael A. Sabo.
The Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board unanimously approves Hamilton Township fire service consolidation.
Under current structure, Hamilton fire services are comprised of nine, autonomous fire districts. Each of the nine districts is governed by five elected commissioners and have their own individual budgets. Under the proposal submitted before the Local Finance Board today, all nine districts would be consolidated and become part of a newly formed Hamilton Township Fire Department funded by municipal taxes.
The process to consolidate the fire districts has been one the Township has considered for over twenty years with the most recent proposal beginning in 2015. This proposal has faced many setbacks of the last five years, but remained one of the top priorities for Mayor Jeff Martin’s administration.
“With today’s approval by the State, we are one step closer to having one Hamilton Township Fire Department in early 2021,” stated Mayor Jeff Martin. “In an unprecedented year of economic difficulties, consolidation could save the township, and therefore our residents, roughly $1.5 million a year in reduced fire service costs all while keeping the same number of fire houses and firefighters. This is an extraordinary moment in both Hamilton and New Jersey history. I want to thank all that have worked to make this happen including Governor Murphy and his administration, our Legislative leaders – Senator Greenstein, Assemblyman DeAngelo, and Assemblyman Benson, our Township Council, our fire consolidation subcommittee members including — Councilman Pat Papero, Jr., Councilman Anthony Carabelli, Jr., Mark Murranko, Joe Monzo, Chief Richard Kraemer, Scott Goldsmith, Nick Buroczi, Shane Mull, Richard Braslow, and all of the Hamilton Firefighters.”
“Creating a unified Hamilton Fire Department through the dissolution of Hamilton’s 9 fire districts is a challenging, forward-thinking initiative that has been years in the making. The scope and impact of this effort are substantial, and its success reflects the strong local partnership among all participants,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “DCA congratulates Hamilton on receiving LFB approval to move this project forward today, and looks forward to continuing to support their efforts through the January 1 transition date. More broadly, the Murphy Administration and DCA stand ready to partner with all local governments in New Jersey to help them develop initiatives that result in more efficient services and taxpayer savings.”
“This is a great step forward in ensuring our firefighters have the ability to continue their excellent quality of service to our community,” said Senator Linda Greenstein. “I commend the work of the Martin Administration and our Hamilton Firefighters who worked so hard to find a workable plan.”
“I’m thrilled that the Local Finance Board has approved the Hamilton’s fire consolidation proposal,” commented Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo. “This is an important step in securing a more responsive and effective fire service that will save taxpayers money. I look forward to seeing this continue moving forward so that we can improve the safety and well-being of Hamiltonians in every neighborhood.”
“From standing in front of Rusling Hose Fire Company three years ago to now, I have believed that the time is right to have a strong Township wide uniform fire service,” stated Assembly Dan Benson. “It’s safer for our residents, as well as, the firefighters serving us in harm’s way. Just as importantly, it makes economic sense in the long run to ensure that all Hamilton residents receive the same high level of service regardless of their zip code. Congratulations to the Mayor and Council on this important milestone achieved through their hard work. “
“When Hamilton’s firefighters took on the consolidation effort nearly four years ago they did so with a goal of making their community safer,” Eddie Donnelly, President of the NJFMBA said. “Today’s result is a testament to the positive things that can happen when labor and management work together.”
The Local Finance Board approved the application by a unanimous vote of 7-0. The next step would be coordination with the Civil Service Commission for organizational transfer of all current fire district employees.
The plan calls for the Hamilton Township Fire Department to operate six engine companies and two ladder companies, employ the current 133 sworn firefighters working in township districts, and be led by a fire chief.
The annual fire service budget will be about $28 million a year.
The transition of fire districts would take effect on January 1, 2021. All fire houses throughout the Township will remain open.
Rich Kraemer, currently the chief in District 6, will lead the newly created township department. Three of the current fire chiefs will be reclassified as deputy fire chiefs, one will become a battalion chief, and one firefighter mechanic will be reconsidered as a firefighter.
While others buckled under pressure, Mayor Jeff Martin shared our commitment to making Hamilton Township safer through consolidation,” Dave Krueger and Nick Buroczi, presidents of Hamilton FMBA 84 and 284, said Wednesday in a joint statement. “Open and forthright dialogue has gotten us this far, and that’s what will get us through the rest of the process, including by negotiating fair working conditions for all of our professional firefighters.”