The story in this paper (June 29th) as to the proposal to close fire houses in North Hudson during the summer is distressing and indicative that either (a) the regional fire department does not work or (b) that the administration is incompetent, inefficient and lacks accountability.
The Co-Executive Director of NHRFF, according to the news story, gives us some discouraging information. He is quoted as saying a reason for considering closing fire houses is "...to try and save taxpayers money..." since the anticipated cost for summer overtime and sick pay will be double the amount budgeted ($1 million needed as compared to $1/2 million budgeted.) Why such a short fall in this critical area? It would appear to me that the office of Director would play a major part in the preparation of the budget. Question, why is there a need for an Executive Director and a Co-Executive Director? Or has NHRFR become a luxury club for the politically connected receiving high salaried jobs and positions without any accountability?
We have continuously been told the response time in getting to a fire is the prime factor in saving lives and property. On this issue the Co-Executive Director is quoted as saying, "it (closing a firehouse) will not impact the response or safety...but it will save money overtime." Is this statement believable? If there is no loss in response time or safety by the closing of a firehouse, as represented by the NHRFR administration, then, why reopen the firehouse? Would we not be saving taxpayer dollars by keeping a firehouse closed? Common sense tells us the closing of one firehouse reduces the response time in that community. Closing firehouse on a rotating basis, as has been suggested, multiplies the reduction in the response time to a fire. The loss of just one firehouse, for no matter how short a period of time, is close to being criminal.
The rush into a regional fire department for the North Hudson area by the mayors of these communities some 10 years ago was nothing more than a political move. The issue was never presented to the people of North Hudson via a non-binding referendum which would have afforded an opportunity for public discussion on such a move.
The theory behind the move was to provide increased fire protection at a lesser cost factor. I still remember the newspaper ads with the pictures of these smiling mayors telling the people how they were going to save taxpayers money and provide for more fire protection. Where are these smiling faces now? What a difference 10 years makes.
If these mayors are truly sincere about saving tax dollars by regionalization then how about regionalizing all of North Hudson into one City with one government, one fire department, one police department, one Board of Education, one construction code official, etc. Just think of all the tax dollars that could be saved.
It may be time to reconsider this experiment and go back to the individual communities maintaining their respective fire departments.