The fire and first aid squads may receive much needed equipment in 2012, as both departments of volunteer first responders have requested new vehicles from the Washington Township Committee.
One of the fire department’s two engines is now 22 years old, according to Long Valley Fire Chief Jim Rasmussen, and has become a safety issue for members and residents over the past few years.
“It left us stranded back in June when we were responding to a call,” Rasmussen said. “There was another time when a passenger door flung open when responding (to a call). Some of our members are almost unwilling to ride in it right now. We have great volunteer members who do a great job, but we need to keep them properly equipped.”
To replace the engine, which is also rusting and becoming corroded, Rasmussen said, will cost the township $450,000. Any amount needed over the requested funds will come from the fire department through fundraising efforts, he said.
“The (truck) we looked at is basic,” Rasmussen said. “We’ll be taking all the equipment from the old truck and switching it over to the new one. It’s a standard, basic truck.”
Washington Township has three fire companies within its department; Long Valley, Fairmount and Schooley's Mountain.
The committee, which has asked all municipal departments–volunteer or otherwise–to come in with flat budgets for capital improvements this year, is looking at a capital budget of $2,614,000 according to township Chief Financial Officer Kevin Lifer.
“That’s the number we’d be at if we reached the (state-mandated) 2-percent tax levy cap,” Lifer says. “The committee has made it very clear that we’re not going anywhere near that.”
Lifer also said that by way of passing an ordinance, the township could get away with only spending $22,500 on the truck in 2012–a 5-percent down payment–and picking up the rest of the tab over the next few years. The same would go for the new ambulance requested by the first aid squad.
One of the first aid squad’s ambulances had the same struggles as the fire department’s truck last year, breaking down at Morristown Medical Center after transporting a Washington Township resident there.
A new ambulance would cost the township $187,500, according to committeeman Tracy Tobin, also the liaison to the fire and first aid departments.
With a 5-percent down payment in 2012, though, it would only cost the township $9,375 up front.
Both vehicles have been tentatively approved, Tobin said, a much different tone than the one put forth by the committee last year.
The request for a was denied because of cost in 2011, the first year New Jersey municipalities and school districts operated under the 2-percent tax levy cap.