By JACQUELINE DURETT
SOUTH AMBOY — The May 18 City Council meeting was an opportunity for one resident to express his concerns about emergency services levels in the city.
Brian McLaughlin, an independent candidate for council and a member of the fire department, asked about future plans for the fire department during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“When was the last time we did a feasibility study on the emergency services in this town?” he asked. “We don’t have the volunteers beating down the door anymore. You know, eventually we’re going to have to make a move here. You’ve got some outdated firetrucks. We’re building condos and townhouses all over. In the event we have to build a central firehouse, where would we put it?”
“Well, we’ve looked at several locations,” Business Administrator Camille Tooker responded, adding the issue is one the city has been discussing with the fire department. “We’ve actually brought in experts to look at specific sites to see if a firehouse could be placed there. Unfortunately, the places we were looking at, there was enough room for the building, but not for enough parking. So this is not off our radar.”
McLaughlin asked where a building could be put, noting that the city is “running out of property quick.”
“That’s a difficult question to answer, sir,” Council President Mickey Gross said. “There’s too many variables.”
Gross said both land availability and the input of the fire department would need to be taken into account.
However, Tooker pointed out that the city would not be limited to spaces that were currently available.
“A firehouse is a public purpose,” she said, “so any property that we would want for that purpose, we would be eligible to get. We don’t have to go to an empty lot.”
However, she said if the city did need an empty lot, there are available properties, such as the former Foodtown site on Bordentown Avenue. The most recent grocery store on the site, C-Town, burned down just over a year ago, so now that the debris cleanup is complete, that lot is vacant.
McLaughlin asked if the city had been looking at that site as a potential firehouse site. Tooker said the city has considered it, but there are many steps required before taking any action, particularly since the city does not own that land. Most important would be fire department and public support, as a referendum would be required to proceed, she said.