Is it time for a paid fire department in Holmdel?
This question is on the minds of many Holmdel residents after the fourth major structural fire in less than two years.
Results of the Township Committee’s commissioned analysis of the Township Fire and Safety system, by fire safety expert Harry R. Carter Ph.D, made clear that our current volunteer department of 35 dedicated individuals is not sufficient.
Dr. Carter notes, “based upon my review of the nature of your community and its population, I would suggest that you should plan on developing a career department, supplemented by a volunteer support staff, as soon as possible.”
Despite the recommendations and the public’s reaction to the report at the Township Committee meeting on Feb. 12, two days later, Mayor Eric Hinds released a video message that Holmdel would not consider a paid fire department.
Hinds said Somerset Development had “generously” decided to build the Township a firehouse on the grounds of its development, Bell Works, and, in return, they would seek approval to build 195 one-bedroom rental apartments adjacent to the “free” firehouse.
While details are negotiated, it should be noted that neither the Deputy Mayor nor the Fire Chief were privy to these negotiations or consulted on the location of the firehouse, prior to the deal’s announcement.
Mayor Hinds stated this would not result in a tax increase for residents, however, most residents have already seen their homeowner’s insurance increase due to the downgrade of our Insurance Services Office Public Protection Classification (ISO).
We are all thankful none of the fires resulted in the loss of life or major injury. If fire safety is truly the priority, committee members have mentioned publicly, the cost of a paid fire department along with the construction of a centrally located firehouse should be determined, put on the ballot, and residents should be allowed to have the final say.