ROSELLE—Roselle Mayor Garrett Smith introduced a plan at last week’s Borough Council Workshop Meeting that calls for Roselle and the City of Linden to study a potential shared service agreement for fire services.
“What I’m asking us to do is what the state of New Jersey is asking us to do and that is sit down with Linden and see if there are ways we can save our taxpayers money,” Smith said. “We can no longer afford to live the way that we’ve been living.”
Linden’s city council rejected the resolution at a meeting earlier this week, but Smith plans to come to Linden in the coming weeks to meet with Council President Robert Bunk. Bunk objected to language in the Roselle mayor’s proposed resolution that improperly indicated that an agreement had already been reached.
The study would be funded through grant money made available for shared services studies by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The two municipalities would jointly file an application for the funding.
The proposed study would examine the pros and cons of merging the Roselle and Linden fire departments and determine if it is a beneficial course of action for both municipalities. Issues such as safety of residents, response time, logistics and economic benefits would be considered.
The Linden Fire Department is undergoing a massive facilities upgrade; it recently built a new firehouse and is in the process of building two more. The Linden Fire Department is a fully-staffed department with more than 150 full-time firefighters, which could offer Roselle residents faster response times. The Roselle Fire Department, with fewer than 30 employees, is a much smaller department that relies on mutual aid.
If the study concludes that a shared service agreement is beneficial for both parties, Roselle would likely dissolve its fire department and pay Linden a pre-negotiated fee for fire services. The agreement would save Roselle taxpayers millions per year.
“What we want to avoid is a situation where we are spending the taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars on our own fire services when we could receive a higher level of service from Linden at a fraction of the price,” Smith said. “That is why we want to have this study done: to make sure we are spending our money as efficiently as possible.”
Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka said that if the study shows that Linden could benefit, “I think it’s worth exploring. We need to look at any innovative way of saving money.”
Safety of residents will be the paramount concern when determining the appropriate course of action for Roselle. Mayor Smith believes residents will be safer under the proposed plan, because Roselle would no longer have to rely on mutual aid when there is a fire.
If the Roselle Fire Department is dissolved, the current firehouse, at the intersection of 8th Avenue and Chestnut Street, could be converted into a community center with a pool, a fitness center and community meeting space, satisfying what has long been one of the borough’s most pressing needs.
The grant application must be approved by the Roselle Borough Council and the Linden City Council before the study can move forward.