As November election time starts to heat up, so has the debate on the proposed firehouse in Milltown. I attended the safety meeting in February and saw firsthand the existing conditions that the firemen have to deal with. After seeing the presentation, I feel that without a doubt something needs to be done. However, I have to question the approach the elected offices took to resolve this problem. When questioned as to what plan B was, the answer was that there is none because the firemen were only ask to come up with plans for a new firehouse … period.
I see several problems with that approach. First, why would the elected officials put such a burden on the firemen, who already volunteer their time training and protecting our town? Now the officials want them to spend more of their free time meeting with architects and working on plans for a new firehouse. In my opinion, since this would be a borough-owned building, the elected officials should have instructed the business administrator to take the lead on this project, with input from the firemen.
In addition, the elected officials basically asked the firemen to design a building with no budget constraints. Ask me to build a home for myself and not have to worry how much it is going to cost, and I’ll build a mansion. At a minimum, the firemen should have been given a dollar amount that the officials felt the town could afford to come up with a plan that fits that budget. Finally, there should have been, at a minimum, a plan B and possibly a plan C along with a cost/benefit analysis of each. From that information, you select the best plan.
When a motion was made at the April 25 Borough Council meeting to put a question on the November ballot regarding the new firehouse, the motion was defeated by a vote of 4 to 2. I heard opinions from some council members that they were elected to make those decisions. That is correct. But why wouldn’t you want to know how the residents felt, whether the vote was for or against building a new firehouse? Regardless of the vote, as elected officials you still have the right to make the final decision.
I am a former volunteer fireman, fire chief, fire inspector, arson investigator and paid fireman for the Iselin section of Woodbridge. I hope the Milltown firemen understand that we do support them and want to give them something better than they have, but it is the cost of the entire project, which is estimated to be in the $5 million range, that the residents are concerned about.