Yesterday, Maplewood and South Orange townships released the results of a jointly funded study, recommending that the two towns begin taking concrete steps toward merging fire departments.
The study estimated that the consolidation could result in an estimated annual cost savings of $582,659 to $1.6 million.
Town leaders say they support the recommendations but caution that the process will take negotiations and time.
A public presentation of the study is scheduled for October 26 — the time and place is to be announced,
The 161-page study by Manitou Incorporated of Peekskill, NY states, “Our findings are clear — the communities of Maplewood and South Orange would be better served by combining their fire departments into a single entity.”
Manitou presents “several options” that it says “will enable savings in personnel, and increase the numbers of personnel and equipment responding to alarms in both communities.”
The report states that “the current fire stations serving the communities will remain in service, and both forces would fall under a common set of operational procedures and leadership, which will improve effectiveness and coordination.”
Regarding EMS services, the report states, “The current system has disparities in funding that may create an environment of public discord, especially if it translates into unequal clinical quality, response performance and train g standards. However, we understand that South Orange is avery happy with its current arrangement, and the two municipalities have endorsed an agreement recognizing the SORS’s response into Maplewood.”
Estmated cost savings are detailed on pp. 157-158.
“We are confident that 4 positions could be eliminated — 1 per shift — without negatively impacting overtime costs,” the report states. “Under this scenario annual cost savings are estimated at $582,659.” Those staff position recommendations include the elimination of one police chief and reducing the number of deputy chiefs from 8 to 4 (either through attrition or “bumping” deputy chiefs down to captain rank.
Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said that he agreed with the recommendation to consolidate the two departments. “Most importantly it will bring more firefighters and apparatus to a fire quicker and with better coordination,” wrote DeLuca in an email.” There also could be a significant savings for both towns. I think this makes sense as a shared service.”
But DeLuca noted that the process would not be simple.
“There are operational differences between the two towns that will require negotiations. I look forward to beginning those conversations with our colleagues in South Orange. It will take time and we are committed to hearing from the residents and the firefighters as we move forward.”
According to the contract with Manitou, the cost of the consolidation study was not to exceed $47,513.
Read the full report here: