Mayor Joseph Doria said the firefighters have agreed to work in their new positions for the next six months at the salary of their old positions, saving the city $80,000. "We want to thank them for that," Doria said.
The mayor also said the city would soon be hiring new firefighters to help boost the ranks. Over the last few months, the city has faced criticism over the low number of firefighters that at times required the closing of some firehouses.
Most recently, firefighters complained about a fuel spill that occurred at the IMTT company section of the city - at a time when the city's foam truck was in a closed firehouse.
Fire Chief Thomas Lynch said the cost of public safety is not cheap, but that the record of each of the promotional candidates shows that "the citizens of Bayonne are getting their full dollar value" when these people take up their new positions.
"I expect you to make the right decisions [or get back on the right track]," he told the men. "I expect you to be on time and I expect you to be a man who leads men into the belly of the beast."
Lynch said that Sept. 11, 2001 changed the firefighting world throughout the country.
"We are called upon today to perform more duties than I ever imagined when I came on duty in those ancient days of the 1960s," he said.
But he also said the younger firefighters will likely see as many changes.
"I think you're prepared for them," he said, noting that their ability to qualify for the promotions showed that. Lynch also acknowledged the sacrifices each firefighter made, giving up time with family and intense studying. The support of family helped these people attain the promotions, and Lynch pledged the support of the Fire Department management as well.
"We will give you the resources, we will give you the training, and we will give you the opportunities to succeed," he said, but also encouraged each firefighter to remember that he served the public.
Fire Director Patrick Boyle said, "You guys have waited a long time, and I appreciate the sacrifices you've made in waiting and the sacrifices you'll make in the future. Don't take your responsibilities lightly. The newly appointed lieutenants, you are now not only part of the team; you are leaders of the team. People are going to look at you for decisions and you'll be expected to make them. You will be held accountable for those decisions."
Positions of authority
The firefighters promoted to lieutenant are Eugene Brennan, Jacinto Lopez Jr., Peter Aiello, Maryan V. Czok, Steven Kramer, Jason Verdon, Howard Frank, James Anderson and John Garrity.
The new captains, Boyle said, already have experience in supervision, but now become the veterans of the department to whom firefighters and lieutenants will look for guidance. Those appointed fire captain were Peter McMonagel, John Dunne III, Thomas Obiedzinski, Timothy Coughlin, Eric Nelson, and Robert Seeburger.
"Battalion chiefs, you are in a new area of responsibility," Boyle continued. "In a continuing war of us vs. them, you are now on the side of them." He said the shift from captain to battalion shift put them in a different role, forcing them to be decision makers with administrative responsibilities. Some of these decisions will involve putting firefighters in harm's way when fighting fires, such as inside a burning building.
"You are also custom services managers," he said. "You are the first chief officers the public will see. You will be expected to treat them professionally and with courtesy, as is the tradition of this Fire Department."
He said the battalion chiefs will bear the brunt of choices when things go wrong.
"When things go right, hopefully you will be praised," he said.
Boyle said the most important aspect of battalion chief's job is the safety of personnel.
"It is your responsibly to assure that they go home at the end of the shift," he said.
The new battalion chiefs are Paul Avery, William Bartos, Richard Sullivan and Robert Balance.
Council President Vincent Lo Re Jr. said that the council chambers have been the scene of various debates, some of them acrimonious, especially regarding taxes and spending within the community.
"But we have always provided our citizens with the best of services, in particular the police and fire," Lo Re said, adding that the promotions came later than many might have liked. "But as we said all along, it was going to happen. It was a matter of time."
Councilman Anthony Chiappone said the firefighters worked very hard to get their new positions, and he honored the families who supported the firefighters as well.
"Nothing is as important as supplying the services that you do, and I think the public understands what you do," he said. "As a council member, I certainly appreciate that."
He called this "one of the happiest days" of his council, and pledged his support.
Councilwoman Maria Karczewski said she was proud to be there, and appreciated what the firefighters had done, while Councilman Theodore Connolly called it a milestone for the fire firefighters' careers and profession, and thanked them and their families.
Former Mayor Dennis Collins called it an important occasion, giving congratulations.
"There is no doubt whatsoever that Bayonne firefighters command tremendous respect by people in our community," Collins said. "That is because each and every day, and every hour of every day, you look out for us and protect our community."
Al Sullivan can be contacted at email@example.com