Montclair, NJ – When Montclair Township Council, at a contentious September 28 meeting, voted 4-3 on Resolution R-22-201, a resolution authorizing a Shared Services Agreement with the Borough of Glen Ridge for Fire Suppression Services, the meeting was packed with Montclair residents who implored the council to vote no.

At the July 26 Montclair Council meeting, when the Council went into executive session mid-meeting for an extended period, a crowd waited nearly three hours until they could participate in public comment. The reason for going into Executive Session, as stated by Mayor Sean Spiller, was resolution R-22-148 to discuss “Contract Negotiations and Litigations.”

During that July meeting’s Executive Session, there was a straw poll with a majority of the council members agreeing to having Montclair make a proposal to Glen Ridge by way of a bid. The bid was based on the Fire Department’s analysis of costs for providing fire suppression services. There was no resolution after that executive session authorizing Township Manager Tim Stafford to make the bid on the Township’s website.

“We sat in a meeting in July and five of us said yes. And now there seems to be a change of heart based on a bunch of conversations going on publicly, but privately that’s what we did,” Councilor David Cummings said, referring to the July 26 meeting before the council voted.

A change of heart is exactly what you would expect when new information comes to light.

“A straw poll, where it looks like five people are in favor of something, is clearly not binding without a public meeting,” says attorney Alan Trembulak, who has served as Montclair’s Township Attorney. “It wasn’t a formal vote. It was a decision to make a proposal. I don’t see how that could bind someone. To say that after considering public feedback, they couldn’t change their mind, now that would be irresponsible.”

“What would be the purpose of having a public hearing and public comment if the council was already bound by a straw poll months earlier?” Trembulak adds.

Trembulak recalls during his time as township attorney, when there were discussions in executive session, it wasn’t uncommon for councilors to change their minds, “sometimes in the elevator on their way out of the building” but especially when new information is made available before an official public vote.

New information came minutes after the councilors returned from executive session at that July meeting. Residents, after waiting nearly three hours to participate in public comment, raised concerns about the Fire Services agreement, imploring the council to look at all the costs associated with providing fire services and not simply incident costs. They also called for any shared service agreement to be transparent.

“Let’s not repeat what happened in 2012,” said Montclair resident Eileen Birmingham.

Birmingham had also raised concerns before; at the June 13 council meeting, she stated that Glen Ridge was paying $50,000 less than it did in 2011 and, when adjusted for inflation, the borough was paying Montclair less than it did way back in 1991.

Why Was Montclair Forced to Bid?

At that late July meeting, Montclair councilors prepared a bid in response to a request for a proposal (RFP) by Glen Ridge, originally sent out on May 31, 2022.

“As we have to engage in a sealed bid process for the fire contract, not negotiations,” Mayor Spiller wrote, “we are forced to make determinations of what we will offer, knowing that other towns may bid as well.”

So why was Montclair put in the position of a sealed bid process? What kind of negotiations took place before Glen Ridge announced that it was putting Montclair in a competitive bidding situation? The council had eight executive sessions in 2022 before the July meeting. Not one indicates any discussions about the fire contract.

The Capital Finance Committee — Mayor Sean Spiller, Councilor David Cummings and Councilor Bill Hurlock — talked about the bid, but they weren’t all in agreement.

“I’ve been a consistent no. This goes back for over a year with us on the finance committee,” Hurlock said. I actually wanted more. I wanted more than the $900,000, I wanted it to be about $1.2 million. My compromise was to keep it where it was, which was the $900,000 number that we have now.”

Councilor Robert Russo said he asked for the state’s shared services czars, former mayors Nicolas Platt and Jordan Glatt, to review the contract for over a year, something Montclair residents, including Birmingham, had also asked councilors to do.

“Bad communication or no communication has been what got us into past poor contracts, and I advocated continual communication with both Glen Ridge officials and Bloomfield’s leaders to avoid a conflict, delays or a ‘bidding war,'” says Russo. “I warned our officials and staff and alerted our new town attorney of the need to respond and negotiate directly with Glen Ridge to avoid them going out to bid. Again, I was rebuffed and told not to interfere or ‘lecture’ my colleagues.”

Russo’s account matches that of Glen Ridge’s attorney.

“Glen Ridge sought at various times to meet with representatives of Montclair to discuss the renewal of the 2012 agreement,” says Glen Ridge’s attorney John Malyska. “Even though the 2012 agreement (like the 2003 agreement) allowed Glen Ridge to renew for 10 years, not all renewal terms were specified. Time passed to the point where the window for Glen Ridge to secure 2023 fire suppression services was closing. The circumstances left Glen Ridge with little responsible choice but to follow the 2012 protocol and request proposals for fire suppression services.”

Numbers Matter

Spiller told constituents in an op-ed on September 25 that “after working with Glen Ridge for a number of years, we know exactly what our annual costs are to provide fire service and protection. By engaging in a shared services agreement, Montclair receives dollars that far exceed our incremental cost associated with providing fire services to Glen Ridge.”

“I strongly resent that critical information — an analysis from our chief financial officer with recommendations on what we should bid, was withheld from a majority of the Council prior to bid submission,” said Councilor Peter Yacobellis, who also shared this concern in an op-ed on September 22. “The public should know what numbers the Mayor is basing his argument on. I don’t. Do my colleagues? Why get $926,000 in 2022 and then ask for only $850,000 in 2023? Why has this essentially been unchanged for 30 years?”

The report from Montclair’s chief financial officer details different ways to calculate the costs of providing fire suppression services to Glen Ridge. The lowest estimate in the CFO’s report is based on the number of Glen Ridge fire calls Montclair responds to – approximately 10 percent of overall calls. That would put Glen Ridge’s annual payment at nearly $1.7 million.

In addition to Yacobellis, Russo and Councilor Robin Schlager both said they had supported the original bid without having seen the CFO analysis.

A “No Choice” Vote?

Although the proposal to Glen Ridge was discussed at the July 26 meeting during executive session, records show it was not submitted until the submission due date of August 18. Glen Ridge accepted Montclair’s proposal by Resolution 133-22 on September 12.

“Their council has not yet formally met, but we have every reason to expect that since we have received the proposal that we will proceed. They have indicated that they will go forward with the execution of the contract,” said Glen Ridge Councillor Anne Marie Morrow on September 12.

Councilors at the September 28 meeting made statements indicating they were unclear as to what a vote in a straw poll with no resolution to memorialize it actually meant. Could they even vote no?

Interim Town Attorney Paul Burr said there was an “expectation from Glen Ridge” that it would be ratified by resolution by Montclair.

“Without a council vote on this resolution to ratify the bid as a contract, is there even a binding legal contract here?” Russo asked.

Burr said he would have to take the meeting into executive session to answer, “because there could be pending litigation depending on actions of council tonight.”

Councilor Robin Schlager, reading from prepared comments before voting, said she had no choice but to vote yes, adding that the township attorney told her the town was “legally bound” to the bid it had made.

“If my colleagues want to go ahead with this, that’s fine,” said Councilor Hurlock, of his “no” vote.  “It doesn’t mean I have to, legally or otherwise.”

A motion to table the resolution by Russo, and seconded by Yacobellis, was unsuccessful.

“I tried to help resolve this communication problem with a motion to just table and further discuss the contract. A couple of weeks delay would not have been a legal problem with our friends in Glen Ridge,” says Russo. “Now we may face that from others.”

Montclair voted to pass their resolution on September 28; the bid packet from Glen Ridge stated that the actual agreement must be executed by the winning bidder no later than September 22, 2022.

Flawed Process

Hurlock said he received over 200 emails, texts, notes and phone calls from residents about the fire suppression services. Schlager echoed a similar outcry from her constituents and Russo said, in an email exchange with a Glen Ridge councilor, that “hundreds of residents are screaming at me for this bid and contract,” adding that in his 22 years of serving on the council he had never received such negative messages.

Spiller had this to say in an email to constituents a few days after the vote:

“Montclair residents can always be counted on to engage in thoughtful discourse on issues impacting our community. Democracy relies on participation, which is why I believe we are a stronger community when we engage in constructive dialogue even when we do not all agree.”

But where was the dialogue before the 11th hour? Clearly it was an issue residents wanted to participate in, that warranted a formal public discussion and more transparency.

There was the opportunity for a special session to reconsider the bid in the weeks between July 26 and submitting the bid on August, given the amount of discord over the numbers — not just from the public, but the divide within the council itself. Council members couldn’t even agree that night on what they recalled from the straw poll.

And despite Mayor Spiller repeatedly characterizing the Montclair-Glen Ridge deal as a “win-win” (ironically the same words Glen Ridge used in 2012), Montclair residents are not celebrating.

“When you think about what is happening here — a town is selling fire service to a richer town at lower rates than its own residents pay, expecting its residents to make up the difference in cost — it is not surprising that they cannot get it done without clear violations of the Sunshine Act,” says Birmingham. “This is not a process that should be conducted in secret. Period.”

“Public bidding is so obviously not in the spirit of the shared services statute. It’s not what the legislation intended,” said Ira Karasick, former Montclair township attorney. “The process was not in the public interest and appears deeply flawed. There was a closed session with no resolution and then the submission of a low ball bid.”

Montclair’s Pine Street firehouse is located seconds away from Glen Ridge.

Karasick states that Montclair, due to the location of its firehouses and response time, was the only viable bidder to Glen Ridge, something Montclair could have proven early on in their negotiations.

In a letter to the council, township manager and town attorneys, Martin Schwartz warned of potential future litigation with regards to the Montclair-Glen Ridge fire agreement, stating the agreement is “in apparent violation of a a 2013 New Jersey Revised Statute, Duration of certain contracts.”

“Montclair Council voted on to codify the RFP bid terms submitted. A bid which is still in effect and active, not to support the terms or statutory requirements of a new Shared or Local Services Agreement to be undertaken,” writes Schwartz.

“Glen Ridge’s actions have been based on the protocols and precedents which have existed for 20 years,” says Malyska. “The current shared services agreement for 2023-2032 was reached using the same procedures and protocols that were followed since 2003. Very little, if anything, has changed in either the length or the nature of the services which Montclair will be providing in 2023 from those it provided in 2003. Finally, it is important to note that the 20-year relationship has been marked by great harmony between the towns and no issues or disputes have ever risen over the shared services. Glen Ridge has the greatest respect and appreciation for the Montclair Fire Department and the men and women who serve in it.”

Schwartz also alleges that Councilor Schlager was given “incorrect legal information and distortion of legal facts” to induce her to change her vote.

Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson is critical of the process as well as the agreement itself.

“I preface my comments by noting that I am an ardent supporter of the Montclair Fire Department and I made its support a priority. When I left office the MFD was staffed fully with 89 firefighters; equipped with 4 of 5 new engines, with the last being designed; and covered with an unprecedented six-year collective bargaining agreement.

“Not surprisingly, I support a fire services agreement between Montclair and Glen Ridge. However, I believe that it should be codified in a compliant Shared Services Agreement (SSA) vs. a bid response. A properly negotiated SSA would have produced a legally viable and a more economically equitable agreement; an agreement that reflects the acumen of the citizens and leadership of both communities.

“The procurement process and the agreement itself are problematic. Glen Ridge issued an RFP for goods and services which by law can be no more than five years. The bid magically, and I believe improperly, morphed into a faux SSA. Glen Ridge should have rejected all responses and then initiated SSA negotiations. Once Glen Ridge decided to procure services through the RFP process it was required to adhere to the law governing RFPs. RFPs and SSAs are not fungible. Further, NJ 40A:65-7a(4) states that an SSA must have a term between two and 10 years. This agreement is 15 years.

“In terms of the economics, there is no doubt that the terms favor Glen Ridge. The cost to serve Glen Ridge is irrelevant in my view. The issue is what Glen Ridge should be willing to pay.

“The analysis is relatively straightforward. We pay for Montclair municipal services, including fire protection at $17 million, through property taxes. Each Montclair property pays its share of this cost based on its value.

“If Montclair and Glen Ridge were one town, it would have an equalized property value of @ $10 billion. In this “merged” town, Montclair property ($8.1 billion) would shoulder 81% of the property taxes and Glen Ridge property ($1.9 billion) 19%.

“So, with respect to fire protection services (again $17 million total cost), Montclair would pay $13.8 million and Glen Ridge $3.2 million. It’s just that cut and dry and negotiations would start there. Of course, because because I hold that the revenue from the Glen Ridge agreement is 100% marginal, there is significant “wiggle room” from Montclair’s perspective. Nonetheless, I think we can all agree that a 70% haircut is generous.

“The agreement appears to be headed to the courts to face some weighty legal challenges, which is a most unfortunate and ominous outcome. Hope springs eternal that cool and pragmatic heads on all sides will produce a better one.”

Let us know (and Montclair Government) what you think.

26 replies on “Montclair Residents Challenge Fire Services Deal with Glen Ridge”

  1. Thank you for covering this crazy situation. Every time I look at that Glen Ridge RFP, my blood boils all over again. Literally pitting less affluent communities against one another in an insipid, cheerful tone. Legal action will be necessary to rectify this mess.

  2. Liz
    I question the motivation and integrity of this article. I question a few facts, not repeated from the meeting where Chief Allen spoke about the history and costs of the GR contract. Chief Allen was with the MFD for 34 years one would consider his first hand knowledge and the overall value of the agreement as an insider not an OpEd journalist.

    Also in the above photo you refer to the “MFD HQ being seconds away from Glen Ridge” as I recall the land that MFDHQ is built on was FREE land and didn’t cost the township any dollars FREE to the taxpayers.

    I challenge you to seek the facts. Ask the people who were there, not the ones who just showed up, who fit the narrative you seek for political motives. There is history that warrants discovery, it’s not all about a political agenda. If the people had all the information from all parties then it works. You speak of community and togetherness yet hide on Facebook in “Secret Montclair” chat rooms with gate keepers. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. If you want to debate real facts gather them all and don’t have blinders on.

    The above article is full of misinformation right down to the CFO report that is full of inaccurate accounting as well as timelines of costs and depreciation that is completely false. If you seek the truth you will see how the above article is completely inaccurate and is a one sided view of a few residents.

    Lastly I question if it is a shared service with Glen Ridge? They are not sharing or paying into our assets, they have contracted Montclair to perform a service similar to paving a street. They own nothing and walk away with Zero at the end.

    Quoting Councilman Cummings “ the CFO report said to give the library no money but we did, we cannot pick and choose when we want to listen to the CFO report for personal agendas” excuse me if misquoted Councilman Cummings, however at the meeting he was honest and informed about the CFO report that has drawn so much interest. If you post it people will see how inaccurate it is and misleading, that’s probably why we haven’t seen it and the ones who posted it have since taken it down.

    Ask the hard questions seek the truth and facts.

    Jenn M

  3. Thank you Jenn M for highlighting David Cummings remarks about how his Finance Committee received a report from our female CFO about the library…

    …and another example I had forgotten about where the full Council didn’t get it until after the fact! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Since they are clearly of public record, can we call up the Township Clerk and get a copy of this report, too? How many more are there and on what issues?

    Do we have to OPRA now every report the finance committee receives to get any kind of transparency and oversight that the rest of the Council is clearly incapable of delivering?

    And at what point will the Governor’s Department of Community Affairs actually apply laws to Democratic towns? Never? Sometimes on somethings? Pay to play, baby!

  4. And this was the Council that unanimously approved CDBG funding to wall off a 4th Ward street for no other purpose than to separate one neighborhood from another? And the County Board of Commissioners rubber stamped it? And the Mtc NAACP or CRC didn’t have a problem with this?

  5. Frank, the CFO report is here – Peter Y gave me the file and I uploaded it to google.

    It’s really not much of an analysis. What does the fire department cost, and then using one of three different usage ratios, coming up with a proportion to Glen Ridge, then sprinkling in an increase over the years.

    Glen Ridge didn’t ask how much it costs to run your department and to become proportional partners. They asked how much it would cost to serve them, which the town came up with, and added a healthy margin on top.

  6. Re: “The reason for going into Executive Session, as stated by Mayor Sean Spiller, was resolution R-22-148 to discuss ‘Contract Negotiations and Litigations.’”

    Anytime authorities of any stripe declare they are going into “executive session” to deliberate matters of grave importance, you know someone is getting screwed.

  7. I’m just coming back to say that from this reporting it’s clear that it’s Montclair mismanagement forced Glen Ridge to issue the RFP. I still find the RFP difficult to read.

    The framing of this meeting as a bunch of random agitators who just showed up is disingenuous. A number of people have been looking at these numbers and trying to understand the situation for over a year. I don’t know how this has been reframed as a political maneuver; rather it is a bunch of citizens trying to figure out how to fund our town and learning that we have this very lopsided agreement with GR. Of course the mismanagement uncovered is illuminating, but certainly was not the goal.

  8. Our Council is now set to lose between $10-15 million in revenue over the life of this agreement by any equitable and reasonable standard of fiscal review. What we should be paid. This is confirmed by former Mayor Jackson within the story and supported by our own CFO’s analysis of cost models — which was ignored by the Mayor and the Manager, and intentionally and incredibly not shared with all Councilors before they voted on the original deal.

    Those officials now actually defending and supporting this agreement as found, or added incremental revenues either don’t understand municipal economics, or come from the “roll-over and give-away the store” school of negotiation. They need to be removed from decision-making as soon as possible.

  9. The CFO report is a red herring here. It’s not “come up with a price we should charge Glen Ridge” it’s simply “Glen Ridge should be a proportional partner, please apply various proportions to our top line budget and show the answer”. That’s not what was asked.

    The former Mayor said ‘the cost to serve Glen Ridge is irrelevant. The issue is what Glen Ridge should be willing to pay.’ Well, Glen Ridge asked how much it would cost to serve them, we know the cost is significantly less than the final bid, we were willing to pay the price Montclair asked. Glad we’re all aligned!

    The cost to serve Glen Ridge is not the cost to run the fire department, divided by percentages to make yourself look taken advantage of, despite how much you want it to be. If Glen Ridge went away overnight, your fire department would cost the same.

    And, fortunately for all the Council people voting No, they also agreed for the future to actually add more Fire Fighters, so Montclair can actually get what they recommend!

  10. Rtadoyle,

    I’ll await you publishing Chief Hermann’s report.
    Your understanding begs several questions.

    It is not clear to me what authority the Council conveyed to the Township Manager (TM). His letter submitting the bid characterized it both as a shared services agreement (SSA) and a bid. The TM included a Non-Collusion Affidavit which does not apply to SSAs. The only official act by the Council recited SSA statue as the basis of the authorization. Shouldn’t the offer then have been submitted as a RFQ and did any of the Council’s 3 direct reports explain the difference during their one executive session on the subject?

    If, as you suggest, the Council was intending to expand the MFD head count, and knowing the contractual wage increases for both MFD unions ranged from 3.25 to 3.5% annual increases and bump ups to years of service scales, they would be faced with many millions more in compensation costs over the life of the agreement they excluded from consideration…and ignoring future COLA increase in subsequent contracts during the life of the agreement. And that this increasing staffing levels would increase the manpower payroll on the rigs responding by 25%? And that standard FEMA rates were used instead of our known cost per unit costs? Yet, the Chief cites NFPA as the basis for appropriate staffing levels, but did not apply theses standards to his calculation of what is provided to GR?

    But, probably most importantly, the Chief used a 10% of a whole calculation…which means he would have to also know the total cost of MFD incident response cost for Montclair…so we can see the difference between the $17MM fixed cost and the hysterically funny and uniquely crafted concept of the “marginal cost” justification used.

    Lastly, you assume someone (the Council, or some subset of its membership?) requested the CFO’s analysis. Do you know who?
    Is it the same individual or group that asked for the MFD analysis.

  11. Jenn M,

    No. What would be gained by me giving up my longstanding, self-appointed ombud position (fyi, I prefer the title of Township Curmudgeon)?

    And to those silly, uninformed people who call for a new form of governance, wouldn’t it be better to actually officially create the position so others have chance to serve – in a nicer manner – and also provide continuity after I am gone?

    Clearly we need this position as voters are too busy with their own lives to provide the oversight they insist is their responsibility?

  12. How amazing, and unexpected, was it to see two experienced, substantial members of the Montclair establishment having to resort to Baristanet to weigh in, without an ounce of equivocation, and use this platform to publicly slap the Council upside their collective heads? You don’t get this from Montclair Local. This is as entertaining as it gets!

  13. I am an ardent supporter of our first responders and particularly the fire department. That being said, twelve years ago when the last contract was signed, Bloomfield and Montclair were very close. Assuming Bloomfield submitted a bid this time (which I do not believe they did), and that bid was lower than Montclair, Montclair would still have won the bid. Whether or not the land the FD HQ is located on was free, it was built there knowing the FD would be covering GR forever.

    Mr. Karasick’s comment regarding Montclair being the only viable department to protect GR is simply inaccurate. Bloomfield has four firehouses that are located along the entire length of GR. Montclair is the only viable option because Montclair was always going to get the contract. But that’s irrelevant (I just wanted to throw that in there.)

    Now, since Montclair is the lone bidder, the first question to GR should be “What are our services and firefighters worth to you.” Montclair could balk at the number and decline. GR can go to Bloomfield or hire a private contracted fire service provider. GR has a number of options, but they want Montclair and know that Montclair will continue to serve their community at a loss.

    Let’s assume there was a reasonable discussion (HA!) between the municipalities. Whether or not GR is 10% of the calls the MFD responds on is only one variable that needs to be considered. To get the true monetary value of the services, there needs to be consideration given to multiple variables not limited to: number of responses, average time on scene, average cost per apparatus to respond and remain on scene, average salary and benefit cost per firefighter to respond, cost of gear, equipment, apparatus maintenance and replacement, and more. Only then can you have the start of a discussion about shared services because once those calculations are completed there would be a baseline hard cost of providing fire protection.

    Montclair fire fighters are professionals and rise to the call of duty every day at every hour. They don’t care who or when the call comes, they go and will continue to do so. But the men and women of the department are pawns here, including the chief (who is appointed by the politicians of the town). The department is running below adequate staffing numbers if it was protecting Montclair alone and just at NFPA 1710 minimum standards. The Montclair firefighters are responding to calls in another municipality at a financial loss for the town and placing their lives on the line for those that loss.

    If the MFD is going to provide services to another municipality then at the very least hire 12 more firefighters to raise staffing to four firefighters per apparatus per shift (FYI, when the township administers an entry-level firefighters test offers go to Montclair residents before anyone else, not GR residents).

    In the end this is poor management by Montclair while the GR leadership is laughing all the way to the bank. Beside getting top tier fire protection below value, they only have to share an athletic field.

  14. Great article. Thank you so much for your work here. The lack of transparency in this town is truly alarming, particularly when it is clear many in our government aren’t looking out for us, and it seems may be actively working against us.

  15. Rtadoyle – the logic of your POV is astounding in is inherent logic failure at the core. You’ve just accepted that GR doesn’t have to supply and pay for its own FD and because Montclair has one and does — we should just cover GR at a fraction of our real costs because its just some found money.

    Sorry….pay your fair share or go elsewhere. When people take advantage of you like this — and then insult you with competitive bid set up smile — especially after 30 years of good service — you say “bye, bye.” No fields…no water…and you even dangle to the press no more mutual fire aid if no deal eventually putting GR residents at complete risk or what other collaboration at hand where Glen Ridge is still getting over. That’s how you push back and negotiate when you are really being squeezed…and walked on.

    And srosen, Ira Karasick”s pov was not that Bloomfield couldn’t cover GR at all — it was just that the location of their firehouses was such that GR was taking on more risk from the distance. So Ira opined. Is that correct to the point where GR would not want to work with Bloomfield if they really had to? I leave it to the professionals to determine that but obviously, he was willing to push back with that as a key negotiation point — which never happened because our manager and/or Council Finance Committee never negotiated. Forget that Ira took off for other pastures in a constitutional joke of bad taste. We let this hang in the wind at the management level and didn’t come to the table timely how ever you look at it…to the point GR decided to just squeeze us again.

    So our bad. And that is the point. Montclair officials have been both incompetent and acted like stooges no matter what POV you apply. And they are now trying to defend and substantiate their unprofessionalism and illogic — when the facts have come home to roost.

  16. srosen,

    Per your point on detailed inputs, MFD uses Alpine’s RedNMX NFIR data collection and reporting software which has modules that track all the incident response metrics.

    If I wanted to get analysis of actual compensation cost components, I would not ask the Fire Chief alone. I would ask an expert in finances like, maybe a CFO. Or if unavailable, an HR type. The factor for calculating these can be generalized from actuals into a factor of anyway from 1.3 to 1.45 times the base salary. In the case of our MFD, I calculate it is close to 1.45.

    Further, in the private sector, we look at the pros and cons of adding expensive headcount vs. utilizing overtime of existing trained employees. As I understand it, OT does not inflate pension and other overhead costs. Unlike the private sector work week, the MFD work schedule lends itself to personnel holding outside jobs or businesses. I have to believe that OT pay is more lucrative and less demand on their free time. Our current budget of $1.25MM in OT suggests to me that we are underutilizing this option.

  17. As to the NFPA 1710 standards, that is a discussion in itself. I have looked and SOMA FD is certainly not at that level. I feel it is unlikely Bloomfield is unless you count volunteers…and someone already gave some insight on that here.

    I am in no way disparaging the standards. However, let’s then have a report from the MFD in advance of the next budget showing what our fire budget would be to follow those standards. I won’t be shocked, but I think most everyone else will take a big gulp when they see the actual pro forma budget.

    And it will hopefully breakout now the mutual aid support we both give and receive impacts how we achieve those standards.

    The MFD’s $17MM is one of the largest muni cost centers we have. If we learned anything from this it is that a more detailed and robust discussion is necessary to have a comfort level with the appropriate funding we want. It likely won’t happen with this Council, but let’s shoot for doing it with the next Council.

  18. Martin, I understand very well what Mr. Karasick was trying to say, but he is wrong. Bloomfield has four firehouses with three of them closer to GR than MFD station 2 is. There has been more than one instance where an incident occurred in GR and Bloomfield responded faster than MFD due to its proximty.

    Frank, I am well versed in NFIRS and have spent quite a bit time and energy working on FD staffing numbers and how budgets are affected. Since this is not the private sector, there are standards that are supposed to be met for FD staffing levels, response times, etc. The department rating is based on these details as well as many others.

    In an understaffed department the OT accumulates quickly and can blow up a budget just as quickly. About 15 years ago Orange relied on OT and would not hire. They operated at staffing below NFPA standards and relied on mutual aid to compensate for their lack of staffing.

    For me, it’s a matter of safety for the men and women responding to our calls for help. In adequate staffing leads to missed injuries and necessary fire ground tasks to be delayed or ignored. I would gladly pay more taxes for a fully staffed fire department.

    As for calculating the expenses and compensation components I would not rely on a CFO, HR or township administrator (remember the administrator is hired by the politicians we are blaming for this mess). I would want an independent specialist in municipal finances and staffing.

    It’s one thing to rely on your research, quote where the statistics come from and to make comparisons to your experiences in the private sector, it’s anther to know how a fire department functions and the standards that have to be met for the protection of the community and department members.

    Regardless of how we get the figures and make our arguments, the bottom line is the township council is playing politics with the safety of the township, its residents and its employees.

  19. John Malyska. “Even though the 2012 agreement (like the 2003 agreement) allowed Glen Ridge to renew for 10 years, not all renewal terms were specified.“

    Note the bold type part. NJ RFP process expects & allows for questions and answers from bidders/issuer up until the bid deadline. GR’s RFP was noticeably brief in its requirements. So, my question is when did Glen Ridge clarify the missing renewal terms that were, or were not added to our bid? Were these missing renewal terms material to the Council’s directive or were details delegated to the TM’s authority?

  20. I readily concede my limitations as a layperson and applaud your points. I’ll adjust my future posts with your points front of mind.

    Somebody attributed to the Mayor that this is not rocket science. I will unabashedly say it is to the Council. As a group, they are particularly weak in finance, so I was surprised they did not bring in Benecke Economics to give the insights you cited. We have the guy on retainer and even if not covered by such, it would have been prudent to pay extra to get his professional opinion. The Capital Finance Committee hired him for their MPL financial review and that was for only a quarter of a million dollar decision. This is, per the accepted bid, a minimum of an $11MM decision for the first 10 years.

    And I push back on not supporting the safety of our firefighters. It is their responsibility, the TM and the Council to explain to us why we need to increase their budget and what we must either cut elsewhere or pay more in taxes.

    I think it is grossly unfair, even crass of you and others to suggest the taxpayers will screw the firefighters out what they need to save a manageable amount a year to support safely providing their service. I’ll take my share of the blame for not appreciating the impact of our budget constraints. We could do better and likely will…if it is explained to us laypeople in a rational, quantified justification.

    You are selling us short…which seems to be the theme these days.

  21. Frank, I apologize it appears I was not completely clear. I do not think the taxpayers will screw the firefighters in any way.

    I think the TC has screwed this whole thing up and is the only entity to blame. Had they demanded a correct figure as compensation for providing fire protection, perhaps Montclair could have benefitted by applying some of those monies to adding firefighters.

  22. srosen,

    From what I was told recently & anecdotally, I would want confirmation that positions are being offered to Montclair residents first.

    I don’t know what it is about my personality that makes people freely share unsolicited information with me.

  23. Frank, there are basically two ways for a NJ resident to become a firefighter.

    One is through the state administered civil service exam which ranks those who pass the written and physical tests giving priority to, in order, disabled veterans, veterans, everyone else. There are some instances where a municipality has been granted permission to give residents preference. In that case ranking goes to resident disabled veterans, resident veterans, disabled veterans, veterans, everyone else. Bloomfield has this preference.

    The other primary way is when a municipality administers its own test, called a Chief’s test. In that case they can make their own rules regarding ranking and hiring. Montclair is one such municipality. As such, they can give preference to township residents when hiring.

    With that being said, I have noticed that I am spending way too much energy and time posting about this. So with that, I bid you adieu.

  24. First, thank you for correcting my misperception.

    Second, thank you for the background info, but my question was if you knew Montclair actually gives preference to residents. I’ll ask the TM when the opportunity arises.

  25. Apparently, this GR mess and countless other screw-ups (Edgemont Bridge, parking deck, canabis, Lackawanna, PNC, etc) has the Mayor in a tizzy. According to his Facebook page, he (not the Council) is going to direct the Township Manager to do what sounds like the Township Manager’s job! This is troubling on so many levels but it’s just not worth the time any longer.

    I do have a major concern, however.

    Isn’t this “directive” a blatant Faulkner Act ethics violation? Under Montclair’s form of government, the Mayor can’t direct the Manager to do anything unilaterally, particularly something of this magnitude. He needs four votes to do anything. Is he grasping at straws? Deflecting accountability? Losing it?

    I am REALLY concerned about the stability of Township governance. I never imagined that Montclair could be this bad. Will we make it to 2024?

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