Oradell Borough Council Grapples with Escalating Fire Department Costs Amid Calls for Enhanced Community Infrastructure

In a series of discussions marked by urgency and pragmatism, the Oradell Borough Council met recently to wrestle with rising costs and a plethora of community needs. The council convened to consider the annual budget, with key points of focus revolving around the funding challenges faced by the fire department, as well as critical infrastructural improvements for the community.

The most pressing discussions centered around Chief Jeff Kaplan’s presentation on the financial constraints of the fire department. Kaplan emphasized the necessity for budget allocations for equipment including personal protective gear, fire trucks, and a two-tier boat trailer for improved water rescue logistics.

“We don’t take [the projects] lightly. They’re not toys. They’re not frivolous requests. These are projects that we feel strongly about and think that they are needs that are important to the department and more importantly, important to the borough,” Kaplan stated passionately.

However, rising equipment costs and inflation posed significant hurdles, necessitating a hard look at the budget. The Chief proposed a decrease in the personal protective equipment (PPE) request from $30,000 to $20,000, seeking to secure a matching grant from the Division of Community Affairs (DCA) in Governor Murphy’s budget. Furthermore, the cost of a new fire truck was estimated at $800,000, a marked increase from previous costs.

“The fire truck that we bought for $550,000 doesn’t exist anymore. We’re looking at more like $800,000 for a pumper…I’m asking for $250,000 in the sinking fund this year,” the Chief cautioned.

Community improvements also featured prominently in the discussion, with deliberations about the need for a new vehicle for local seniors. The council considered extending an existing van’s operation beyond the current three days a week to accommodate a wider range of activities and appointments.

Meanwhile, the council contemplated infrastructure enhancements, including a $60,000 roof replacement for the library and upgrading the basketball and handball court lights to LEDs. The potential underground storage tank replacement posed a significant financial challenge, estimated at roughly $500,000.

Department of Public Works (DPW) Superintendent Dan Nywening stressed the need for ongoing building repairs and security enhancements, while suggesting potential shared services to manage costs and liabilities. He was tasked to discuss the shared service arrangement’s potential costs in the next DPW meeting.

A representative from library services joined the chorus requesting funds for new monitors and LED lights, highlighting the inefficiencies of the current incandescent bulbs. Furthermore, the council mulled over sidewalk repairs and tree planting efforts in the wake of damage from the ash borer.

The council meeting ended with an agreement to review the council’s financial situation, including debt liabilities and budget recommendations. The balancing act between immediate needs and long-term financial stability continues to dominate the Oradell Borough Council’s conversations, reflecting a shared commitment to the safety and betterment of their community.

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