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Fire Department of Sussex Borough Presses For Engine Upgrade

Robyn Giannini

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 • 4:19pm

SUSSEX, NJ - The first order of business addressed on a bitingly cold Tuesday night at the council meeting of Sussex Borough was the recent vacancy of Frank Dykstra from his seat on the council on Jan. 5.

Robert Holowach, Georgeanna Stoll, and Edward Meyer were names offered by the council as possible contenders for the vacated position. There was some contention from current council members over who should assume the seat. Councilwoman Linda Masson began by nominating Holowach, and was seconded by Councilwoman Annette Stendor. However, Masson’s motion failed to carry across remaining members of the board.

Council President Bruce LaBar then nominated Edward Meyer to the council seat. Councilwoman Marina Krynicky backed the nomination of Meyer, who served as council president in 2012. There were concerns on the board over Meyer’s eligibility to represent the Borough of Sussex on the council.

“I think it’s a requirement that you have your name and phone number in the phone book. Meyer has never done that,” objected Masson.

After agreeing to look into whether council members were subject to a phone listing requirement, and if so, whether Meyer had violated it, the board confirmed Meyer to a seat on the council.

“Congratulations, Mr. Meyer. Did you enjoy your one month vacation?” Mayor Jonathan Rose teased Meyer.

In other business, fire chief Rick VanderPloeg and deputy chief Jake Little discussed the department’s beginning of the year report with the board, which most prominently included a request for a new fire engine for the town. A fire engine, or a "pumper," has the ability to pump water from a fire hydrant or a body of water in order to extinguish a fire. Differing from a regular fire truck, which can transport rescue officials, equipment and ladders to assist in an emergency operation, a fire engine explicitly relates to a fire apparatus which, in addition to carrying rescue equipment, has the capability to pump large amounts of water.

VanderPloeg expressed his worry that one of the borough’s fire engines is outdated and in need of replacement, as it no longer meets modern safety requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which had changed since the vehicle was initially purchased. VanderPloeg cited in particular a new standard implemented in 1991 for a closed cap on the hydrant valve on a fire apparatus. The fire engine VanderPloeg and his team were aiming to replace had an open cap valve.

“Safety is a big issue with an open cap,” said VanderPloeg.

The chief explained that a newer, safer engine would also lower the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating, and thus would lower taxes paid by town citizens.

“With lower insurance ratings, homeowners are saving money,” said VanderPloeg. “We are all in the same boat and we’re trying to make every penny count, but we’re getting to a critical point where this apparatus needs to be replaced."

VanderPloeg and Little requested the council invest in a "rescue pumper," which would have the combined ability to both pump water and fight fires, while having additional rescue equipment on board for rescue operations unrelated to fires. VanderPloeg made the proposal for “roughly around $500,000; half a million. We’re not looking for all the bells and whistles.”

“Would this be something we could share with Wantage?” Masson asked.

Meyer added, “There’s a host of ways we could work around this. We had approached Wantage awhile ago, and they said ‘no way.’”

Meyers was concerned that Sussex Borough could not afford to buy another fire engine, while still paying off the purchase of a previous engine in years past.

"We’re not against getting another truck, we’re just trying to see financially what we can do,” said Meyer.

“I would invite any council person to come down and look at the trucks,” said VanderPloeg. “The longer we put it off, the more it’s going to cost. We’re kind of putting off the inevitable.”

“There’s just not a lot of grants out there right now for fire trucks,” clerk Mark Zschack said.

Sussex Council followed up on a request made by Citizen Nicole Hand at a town meeting on Dec. 19 for $800 in reimbursement to pay for damages suffered by her car while parked in town parking lot, a claim denied by the borough’s insurance carrier.

“We had offered her two years of complimentary parking in the borough lot, and she declined,” said Zschack.

Meyer expressed his opinion that the council ask Hand to reconsider their original offer.

“Call her, and see if she would consider it. That’s just my thought,” said Meyer.

The board tabled a decision on the matter until the borough has had a chance to contact Hand.

A collaboration with Vernon Township to partake in a dog census throughout the borough for the year 2013 was also approved, at a cost no higher than $1,500. Such a census is required every two years. Zschack emphasized that the count allows the town to discover which households in the borough keep one or more unregistered dogs.

“You make more money than what it costs you,” said Zschack, explaining that when the borough completed the assessment in prior years “we more than tripled our investments into it.”

Former Mayor Katherine Little addressed the council about the gap in communication between the adjacent towns of Sussex and Wantage, in regard to various service projects proposed on Route 23, a road connecting the two towns.

“I think we need to be included on any of these letters on these projects on Route 23,” Little said.

“I agree,” said Zchack.

Little also briefly ran through a few informational items including the successful implementation of the recent yearly rabies clinic. She pointedly told council members that the lights were out in the town clock owned by Sussex Borough.

“Who pays the electric bill in it?” asked Councilwoman Marina Krynicky.

The council was unsure, but Mayor Rose confirmed that “the town did pay to refurbish the clock around eight years ago.”

Borough citizen Jim Bevere addressed the board as well about the lack of clarity in the numerous budget proposals being enacted by the town.

“I’m very concerned with the escalating costs,” said Bevere.

He suggested the council create a separate Water and Sewer Advisory Board to break down the town budget to a more manageable size.

“We have an independent study, done by our consultant,” Meyer said, promising results of the study would be put up on the town website as soon as they were available.

A resolution appointing John E. Ursin, Esq, of Scheneck, Price, Smith & King as Borough Attorney for 2013 was approved (Masson voted "no" to resolution's approval), pending written confirmation requested by Masson that costs to the borough would remain the same. Receiving unanimous approval, Mark Zschack was appointed municipal clerk for Sussex Borough as of Oct. 18.

 

 

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