Mayoral Candidate Harvey Susswein Not Thrilled With New Glen Ridge Fire Agreement

Susswein comments on Montclair's new arrangement with Glen Ridge on fire protection


Harvey Susswein, who is running as the mayoral candidate on the "For Montclair" slate, issued the following statement Thursday morning on Montclair's new arrangement with Glen Ridge regarding fire protection.

"Not all of us are thrilled with the new Glen Ridge fire agreement.

"Our highly professional fire department costs about $13 million a year, including salaries, benefits, and the estimated part of debt service attributable to fire assets. If this cost were spread evenly over the 13,500 residences comprising Montclair and Glen Ridge, it comes to $960 per residence.

"Under the new agreement, for the next four years Glen Ridge pays us $625,000 a year or about $250 per Glen Ridge residence. Montclair taxpayers are left paying over $1,100 per residence for the same fire coverage. Yet we know that the frequency of fire incidents is roughly the same for both communities. Glen Ridge accounts for 15-20% of fire calls, generally in line with the relative size of the two communities, according to Fire Chief Allen’s budget presentation. 

"In addition, Montclair paid Glen Ridge a $200,000 signing bonus!

"Which side of this deal would you rather be on? Montclair and Bloomfield competed in a destructive bidding war over the Glen Ridge contract with the taxpayers of Glen Ridge the clear winner.

"Instead of competing with each other, what if Montclair, Bloomfield, West Orange, and others collaborated on fire coverage? Communities like Glen Ridge could buy in on a fair share basis. This is the type of arrangement our council should explore, rather than engaging in a 'fire sale' of valuable services."

Susswein's slate also includes Timothy Barr, William Hurlock, Walter Springer, and Jeffrey Jacobson.

Right of Center March 08, 2012 at 04:08 PM
What’s telling about the 2012 budget (well, ONE of the telling things) is that the appropriation for the fire coverage of Glen Ridge, that is what it supposedly costs us to provide the service went DOWN $228,000 from the “cost” in 2011. And by a remarkable coincidence that’s the precise amount it needed to go down so that we’d “make money” on the deal! (Sheet 22 in the budget) That was a lucky break huh? Here’s another question for Mr. Susswein. In the 2012 budget the township will spend $7.4 million for healthy and liability insurance for the pre-K. Receiving no revenue from the pre-k. Can we afford this? Is it time to end publicly funded pre-k? That figure is close to the total amount we spend on municipal debt service. If we cut this expense we’d be looking at a sizable tax CUT instead of a 4% increase.
Right of Center March 08, 2012 at 04:12 PM
I applaud his mathematics. And he’s right, we didn’t get a good deal here. But this isn’t exactly the most burning issue, is it? Why, we spend nearly double this just to keep the marching band’s feet dry! Mr. Susswein, perhaps you could tell us how you’d keep taxes down in some substantive detailed way? Because a few hundred thousand isn’t going to do much.
Martin Golan March 08, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I'm confused. If a candidate comes up with a way to save the town money it should be belittled because it's only a LITTLE money? At least he proposes joining up with other towns to provide services, perhaps the only realistic way lower taxes (or more likely, keep them rising sharply). It's beyond ridiculous, to say nothing of expensive, for each and every town around us to separately provide services.
Crafty Spiker March 08, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Mr. Susswein appears to want to distract us. No one here thinks the current council has done much right. What would Mr. Susswein rather we not look into?
ira shor March 08, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Mr. Susswein makes a good point regarding our town's losses on the shared fire service deal; Mr. Susswein deserves encouragement to address other specific items. Other candidates should follow his lead and start addressing specific issues rather than floating generalities. Let's hear more about the BOE's $933K turf plan, it's spending on tech and texts instead of on aides and teachers, it's mysterious financing of melodramatic shortfalls that become wild surpluses; let's hear about over-development of one town property after another in the last 10 yrs, the regressive real estate tax system we have, etc.
Right of Center March 08, 2012 at 07:12 PM
"I'm confused. If a candidate comes up with a way to save the town money it should be belittled because it's only a LITTLE money? " There's NO WAY it can save us even a little money because IT'S OVER AND DONE WITH! The contract is for 10 years! That's two and a half council terms away. Even as an "indicator of his thinking" this "position" fails because he doesn't discuss the real meat of the issue. If we were to give up nearly 1/8 of the funding for the fire department (the previous contract) from Glen Ridge as Mr. Susswein seems to suggest was the right decision then the obvious follow-on question would be: "Will you therefore cut the fire department manpower by 1/8?" You can't simultaneously maintain that we need to pay for additional manpower to provide for the contract and then maintain that absent the contract we shouldn't get rid of the extra manpower. Why doesn't Mr. Susswein discuss that? Because he doesn't have to. Because it's no longer an issue. And chiefly because there's a downside to that discussion. And no-issue politicians AVOID downsides at all costs. He has the advantage of taking a "position" AFTER the fact. (continues)
Right of Center March 08, 2012 at 07:14 PM
(continued) So this "position" is nothing more than candidate BS posing as a real position. He's to be congratulated on his perfect hindsight. Too bad it's FORESIGHT we're looking for in a candidate. Have ANY substantive positions on CURRENT issues you wish to share with us Mr. Susswein? It sure would be helpful. How about the Pre-K? Should we continue to spend 7.5 million per year on it? Is it necessary? Can we afford it? Don't hold your breath for an answer, folks.
Cary Africk March 08, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Gee Roc, No one seems to know where you're getting your information, but I just got off the phone from speaking with the Director of the Pre-K who is baffled by your statements. The Pre-K pays all health insurance of staff and will gladly show you their bills. She also pays all their liability insurance. So, if you'd like to show up (you can put on a ski mask and that way you won't be identified) she'll show you, or anyone else, all the receipts. As to the fire contract. Please realize the significance of Harvey's statement. I am as tired as anyone of hearing "shared services." It's nickle and dime stuff, for the most part. Expenses are skyrocketing in towns as revenue disappears. We need REAL change. Real change is going to mean that people will probably lose their jobs. Let's face it, if you combine departments from different towns, all the administrative overhead, all the chiefs, aren't necessary. The reason more regionalization and large scale change isn't happening is no one wants to lose their job, or wants to be in favor of people losing their jobs. I remember one Council person, years ago, who during a discussion of "privatizing Montclair's sanitation" said "I am opposed to ANY move that will cost our workers their jobs, or one penny in salary, or one penny in benefits." So, Harvey's statement supporting is the first statement in this campaign from someone saying he IS willing to discuss personnel cut backs. It's a big deal.
Right of Center March 08, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I apologize for the pre-k misreading. I misread the budget (sheet 15e). The insurance is listed below the line for the Pre-K and I missed the indent indicating it's not related to the pre-k. Sorry for the confusion.
Right of Center March 08, 2012 at 08:30 PM
"personnel cut backs." Where is that, did I miss it? Personally I think pursuing shared services is a waste of time. The soon-to-be unemployed chiefs would be intimately involved in negotiating this, right? Never going to happen.
Stuart Weissman March 08, 2012 at 09:09 PM
It's the same reason Montclair doesn't have privatized sanitation too. No one wants to lay off Montclair workers, especially the ones that live in Montclair. So the town has decided to play charitable donator with your tax dollars, same as they did when they went above and beyond what was necessary when they mandated 50% of the Wildwood Tract for affordable housing. You can complain all you want about your taxes being high, but it's really the collective decision of the town to continue paying more than necessary for basic services due to compassion. This is where the ultra-progressive agenda fails miserably.
STAN CHARLES March 09, 2012 at 02:07 AM
I would like to know this slates view of projects like: -$1m for artificial turf; -South Park Street; -allowing the pre-k to avoid its loan obligation; -and, of course the opposing slates desire for a trolley.
Cary Africk March 09, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Dear Stan, Turf? You've got to be kidding South Park? Done. That decision is history. No loan. And even if there were, where would they get the money? Sell the desks? Trolleys are kind of cool. I've lots of pictures of Montclair at the turn of the century. Nice trolley going up Valley, another on Bloomfield. Beats bike lanes. Maybe Frankgg can weigh in on this. Cary (chair of the lame duck slate)
tryintosurvive March 09, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Cary, thanks for the quote below: One Council person said "I am opposed to ANY move that will cost our workers their jobs, or one penny in salary, or one penny in benefits." That town council person certainly makes it clear that where their allegience lies, and it certainly is not with the taxpayers. I don't suppose we could find our who that was? This should be a pretty clear question that we should get all candidates opinions on if they are elected. If the majority of the town council holds this opinion, then there is no hope for taxes ever being curtailed, let alone going down.
Martin Schwartz March 10, 2012 at 03:24 PM
"I am opposed to ANY move that will cost our workers their jobs, or one penny in salary, or one penny in benefits." Can you clarify who specifically said this?
working stiff March 10, 2012 at 04:37 PM
You know, people whose jobs depend on taxpayer money are ALSO taxpayers. A big part of this state's continued high unemployment comes from the drastic cuts in public sector jobs during Christie's administration. You're not making a charitable donation when you pay well for services-- you're paying for good services! I like getting my trash picked up twice a week, and I like the high-quality schools my children attend in Montclair. I knew I was going to pay high taxes when I moved here. And compassion, last I checked, is a virtue. I'm proud to live in a town whose representatives decline to put working people out of work. Paying well for a job well done isn't charity-- it's good policy.
Craig March 12, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Working stiff's comments are very indicative of the problem we have with the public sector right now. We all want good services and could get that from things like privatization of the sanitation pick up; making residents bring bulk waste to the town dump instead of sanitation coming to you to get it; and regionalization of the fire depts of Mtc, Blmfield, GR, Verona and maybe other local communities under one centralized administration which then has in place local firehouses in the communities and perhaps a combo-professional and volunteer department. We could regionalize police departments under a central admin to save money. You could even use some of the savings to hire more patrolmen/women instead of dept heads. Anyhow this is all simple in theory. In reality when the 2008 recession began to take hold there was a meeting when Hartnett was the town manager and the purpose was to discuss trimming depts given the tremendous tax burden we face and lousy economic outlook ahead. What happened? The chamber was packed with town employees fearful of losing their jobs disrupting the meeting. The town then backed down and cut less than they should have. To make the town liveable for the majority of residents we need to make hard choices and that includes cutting the workforce and consolidating services with other towns in the same boat. Unfortunately IMO we live in "Working Stiff's" town. But only until the very wealthy will be able to afford to stay.
tryintosurvive March 12, 2012 at 08:27 PM
"I am opposed to ANY move that will cost our workers their jobs, or one penny in salary, or one penny in benefits." If I had to guess it would have probably been someone who had been a town employee for over 20 years. I would surmise that he may have made this type of decision and agreement behind the scenes, because I do not recall it being said in a public forum. Then with a mayor and deputy mayor who knew nothing about finance and were more concerned about bike lanes, this one town council person effectively derailed any real savings that could happen. It did not cost any town employee a penny, but it just cost each taxpayer thousands of dollars.


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