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South Orange and Maplewood fire departments set to merge on July 1 – Essex News Daily

Maplewood Township committee unanimously passes resolution to move forward with fire department amalgamation at their April 5 meeting; South Orange’s board passed a similar resolution on March 28.

MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The first joint meeting of the South Orange and Maplewood Joint Fire Departments was held in Maplewood on April 8; the committee approved contracts and discussed the organization of the future South Essex Fire Service. The South Orange Board of Directors and Maplewood Township Committee passed resolutions authorizing the two towns to form a regional fire department.

South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, Maplewood Committee Member Frank McGehee and former Maplewood Committee Member Greg Lembrich will serve on the Joint Meeting Committee. Bobby Brown, director of South Orange, and Vic DeLuca, deputy mayor of Maplewood, will serve as alternates. South Orange Village administrator Adam Loehner is the general manager. The merger will take place on July 1.

Jordan Glatt, one of the state’s shared services czars, along with Nicolas Platt, was at the South Orange BOT’s March 28 meeting where the directors unanimously approved the resolution. He commended the two cities for their work on creating a joint fire department.

“It took a lot of time, effort and above all courage,” Glatt said on March 28. service for this.

Merging the departments took years; the initial report exploring the possibility of creating a department was written by the consulting firm Manitou Inc. in October 2017. It has since been updated and the two cities decided to move forward in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic further delayed the final merger. Members of local and state fire unions opposed the merger of the South Orange and Maplewood fire departments, saying the numbers would be too low; according to the plans released by the cities, this will not be the case, because no firefighters will be laid off as a result.

“It will consist of 72 firefighters, which is a reduction from 76,” Collum said at the BOT meeting, explaining that the reduction will come from eliminating one chief and four deputy chiefs through attrition. “Every member of the Maplewood Fire Department and South Orange Fire Department will be rehired into the South Essex Fire Department with their current rank, permanent status and seniority.”

DeLuca spoke during the public comment portion of the BOT meeting, sharing a 1992 feasibility study that said it made sense to merge fire departments.

“The conclusion now is that it still makes sense,” he said. “We do this to provide the highest quality fire services to residents in every city and to maintain an appropriate level of personnel and equipment to respond to fires, emergencies and dangerous incidents. Finally, we do it to achieve economic and operational efficiency.

The Maplewood Township Committee joined South Orange in passing a resolution to move the merger forward at its April 5 meeting. Both resolutions were adopted unanimously; Maplewood committee members did not discuss the resolution.

At the April 8 joint meeting, Collum said that to complete the amalgamation, the two cities would pass resolutions by July 1 that would disband the current fire departments. All staff will be terminated and immediately employed by the South Essex Fire Service.