My name is Robert Aiello, retired Chief of the West New York Fire Department (1980-1995). In 1998 I was asked to serve on a transition team for the regionalization of five fire departments; Guttenberg, North Bergen, Union City, Weehawken and West New York.
I knew from over 35 years experience it was becoming difficult to manage small fire departments. There were pressures from the state to provide top of the line protective clothing for our brave firefighting forces along with many other fire ground mandates created to protect the citizens, and of course, our firefighting forces, which were costly. We received no funding from the government at that time as the Police were. Former Governor Christie Whitman, an advocate of sharing services, has signed into law REAP (Regional Efficiency Assistance Program) which provided tax relief for property owners who resided within regionalized communities which had officials courageous enough to "share services," a plus for our area, targeted by terrorists.
Regionalizing was difficult but it's successful, despite some opinions that it had failed. I am responding to an article which was written by a person I actually respect, Mr. Libero Marotta, printed in the Jersey Journal July 1, 2008 and the Hudson Reporter July 28, 2008. He claimed Regionalization was an experiment. Actually it was a necessity in our locale. Regionalization had been studied by various experts for over 30 years. The format for a line and staff chain of command we used in 1998 as a guideline was a comprehensive study by a group which specialized in "combining fire services."
While Chief in West New York, I was lucky to have 15 men responding on a first alarm, and my second alarm brought me two or three more people, with the reliance on mutual aide.
The Regional department has close to 30-35 men on a first alarm and adequate manpower on second and third alarms. Returning to individual departments as he suggests would be a disaster. Many more men would be necessary on individual to comply with the laws and procedures. He then indicates we should regionalize all North Hudson. Perhaps he was jesting.
I'll conclude in this manner; although I have much more to say, Mr. Marotta and the Jersey Journal should have been "all over" Governor Corzine for cutting the tax relief we in the regionalized communities have been receiving since 1998, an average saving of $350.00 for each property owner. As of this date, August 4, 2008, no fire station has been closed.
Robert A. Aiello
Retired Chief WNY FD
Former Chairman and member
North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue (1998-2007)