Franklin Lakes Fire Department Faces Volunteer Shortage Crisis

In a recent meeting of the Franklin Lakes Borough Council, the decline in volunteers for the fire department emerged as a pressing issue. The revelation that, at times, only one firefighter is responding to calls underscored the urgency of the situation. The council is now actively considering a stipend plan to incentivize participation and examining the potential introduction of bunkhouses to accommodate out-of-town firefighters.

Council members voiced their frustrations with a proposed five-year fire department plan that has lingered in discussions for almost two decades. This plan encapsulates solutions to the long-standing issues of equipment storage and firefighter recruitment. The current storage setup was described as far from ideal, with equipment packed tightly, raising concerns about the need for more space or even a new bay. Budgetary constraints play a pivotal role in shaping the solutions, but the council was optimistic, citing success stories from neighboring towns like Marwa and Paramus, where stipend plans have led to improved fire department response rates.

In other topics, attendees and council members voiced concerns over a strict five-minute speaking rule for public comments. The sentiment was summed up by one attendee’s remark – “I think that instead of trying to silence us, you ought to open your ears a little bit more.”

The council clarified the intention behind the rule, emphasizing its purpose to accommodate as many viewpoints as possible during meetings. Despite their justification, the topic generated significant discussion among council members, with some advocating for more flexibility.

On the police front, questions arose regarding the borough’s decision to operate without a police chief for nearly a year and whether this decision was adequately communicated to the public. Furthermore, the rate disparity between Franklin Lakes police officers and those from neighboring towns for private duties sparked discussion.

The Nature Preserve lower dam on Petty Avenue, damaged in a recent rain event, also garnered attention. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated funds for repair, there are anticipated delays due to DEP permit requirements. This has led to road closures and discussions about alternative park access points.

The meeting also shed light on various other community and administrative matters: the potential development of properties beneficial to residents, ongoing FEMA projects, updates on sports and recreational activities, library affairs, and proposed changes to affordable housing set-asides.

A final note of significance was the rise in tick-borne diseases and the uptick in COVID cases in long-term care facilities, though without a parallel increase in hospitalizations.

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