At an October Tabernacle Township Committee meeting, Deputy Mayor Joseph Yates proposed the idea of combining the township’s fire company and emergency squad into one organization as a way to save taxpayers money.
He and Mayor Stephen Lee decided to create a subcommittee to sit down with representatives from the fire company and the emergency squad to evaluate the two groups in greater detail and get their input on this idea.
After several meetings and much discussion, the subcommittee put together a report from its “fact finding mission” and posted it on the township’s website.
“Our report basically observes two organizations that are some of the finest in Burlington County,” Lee said.
Last week, the municipal building played host to the first meeting after the release of the document.
The committee added an additional public comment section as it anticipated many folks would be looking to voice their input on the matter.
They were correct.
Both Lee and Yates made it very clear that no services are being taken away from residents and that this is not a complete document by a long shot, but the intent of the meeting was to get the public’s input on the issue and to factor that into any final decision.
The core problem, as Yates said, boils down to life safety for the community as a whole in terms of how the fire and emergency organizations are working together.
“We have a problem with the emergency squad and the fire department communicating,” he said. “That seems to be the big problem, and everybody we talked to said the same thing.”
One thing the committee and residents who voiced their opinion agreed on was the exemplary service both of these organizations have and continue to supply for Tabernacle.
However, many residents were concerned about joining these two groups compromising that consummate service.
Long-time resident Jim Jones compared it to the potential scenario as a duck-like operation in which you see the ducks sitting very calmly in the water, but beneath the surface, their feet are going crazy.
Resident Timothy Galvin made an analogy to the school system while discussing the imminent need for joint coordination.
“You have a regional school and you have a local school district, but they need to coordinate curriculum and work together for the best results,” Galvin said. “These facilities also need to learn how to come together to support the public.”
Long-time resident Megan Jones views the report as creating a huge amount of divisiveness that is stirring things up and in turn making them worse.
“I think you’ve made things worse. I don’t think you’ve identified anything new,” Jones said. “I am absolutely terrified that the way this is being presented is going to stop the volunteerism from these organizations.”
Lee and Yates said they plan to continue to consider the views of the taxpayers as committee moves forward with its decision.
Anyone interested in reading the subcommittee’s report can do so on the township’s website, www.townshipoftabernacle-nj.gov.