The Town Council at its meeting on Nov. 9 discussed incentives for volunteer firefighters who respond to more calls, authorized cameras at traffic lights, and planned to pursue people who owe outstanding municipal court fines.
It has been 10 years since volunteer firefighters here received an increase in their allowance. The council adopted an ordinance increasing the allowance for volunteer firefighters who respond to 45 percent of all alarm calls during any one month to $400, an increase of $100.
“Once the [traffic light cameras] go in, you can have your picture taken.” – Councilman Gary Jeffas
Those who respond to a night fire, when the department tends to be short on volunteers, will get credit for two fires.
Incentivizing responses to fires
“We have had 700 fire calls this year. This incentive will help us get a greater response to fire calls,” said Fire Chief George Schoenrock during the public hearing. “It will help retain some of our older firefighters. They are the ones training the rookies. It is important to keep these people as long as you can. They have hundreds of years of experience.”
Schoenrock has served on the Volunteer Fire department for 49 years of its 120 year history. The department currently has 86 members.
Councilman James Clancy asked how the department will determine who gets the additional money. Schoenrock said after each call, a designated officer keeps a roster and marks off each volunteer who was present.
“The little investment we put in is well, well worth it to keep volunteering,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli after the meeting. “The reason we put incentives in is to reward the [firefighters] that respond to all of these alarms. [A firefighter] can go [up to] three to four times a day.”
Gonnelli abstained from the vote because he is a volunteer firefighter.
“The whole [impetus] behind the incentive is to get people to go at night time,” Gonnelli added. He said at least four firefighters are needed per fire truck when responding to an alarm call.
He said that the town is well covered during the day. But night calls are difficult for some volunteers to respond to, especially if they responded during the day, or when they have to work early in the morning.
The town has sworn in firefighters each month. Gonnelli said that they are providing a service to the town at a very low cost. He estimates that it would cost the town up to $10 million if it employed a Fire Department. He said there is no need for that change because the town has a fully functional volunteer department.
Also at the meeting, Town clerk Mike Marra swore in Joseph J. Schoendorft as a volunteer firefighter for Rescue 1, Engine 2.
Going high-tech on ticketing
The council also passed a resolution to open bidding for a company to install a Traffic Control Monitoring System that will result in cameras at traffic lights throughout town. The cameras will catch drivers going through red lights.
“Be aware, as residents, that once the [traffic light cameras] go in, you can have your picture taken,” said Councilman Gary Jeffas.
Once an individual runs a red light, the police are notified and they issue a ticket. When a violation is caught on camera rather than by a police officer, it does not result in points on the driver’s license, and is also a lower fine than a regular traffic violation issued by an officer.
Jeffas said that the town is working on getting officers handheld ticketing devices so they can much more efficiently prepare tickets and print them out, which results in less error.
“Both of those initiatives should generate a lot of money for Secaucus,” said Gonnelli.
The council also passed a resolution to allow the municipal court to hire a private collection agency in order to pursue almost $200,000 in outstanding court fines.
The council issued a proclamation designating November as Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month. Deputy Mayor John Bueckner presented the proclamation to Pulmonary Association members JoMarie Bennett, who suffers from pulmonary hypertension, and her husband Vincent Bennett.
The president of the local Kiwanis Club Richard Warga, along with Frank Pinto and Carl Mucciolo, presented the council with a donation to The Children’s Fund, the food pantry and also donated wheelchairs and a walker.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.