Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 40
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
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Change in Fire Chief Selection Process Introduced by Borough

Dilshanie Perera

Borough Council recently introduced an ordinance that would change the process of selecting the chief of the Princeton Fire Department.

When asked by Council Member David Goldfarb whether the vote could be delayed until the fire companies had met with all of their members, Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi noted that “all three [companies] have discussed this ordinance on the meeting room floor.”

“I would like to keep this on as strenuous a timetable as possible,” Mr. Bruschi said, on the subject of amending the fire code to incorporate the new chief selection procedure.

Director of Emergency Services for the Borough Mark Freda mentioned that all three company presidents have reviewed the changes, and that there was no objection to the ordinance as a whole. “Two out of three chiefs are here to recommend it and endorse it,” he added.

“This is a fairly significant change in the way the department is governed,” Mr. Goldfarb asserted.

Regarding chief selection, Mr. Freda said that in the past, each company would elect a chief, and of those three, one would become the Department Chief, one would be the Associate Chief, and one would be the Assistant Chief.

Now, since there is “a much smaller pool of people with the qualification” to head the entire fire department, the ordinance proposes a selection committee in which three past department chiefs would review qualified candidates from within the department and vote on each of the three positions, Mr. Freda said.

“It has worked very well, and is a very fair process,” he added, saying that “it will serve the department and the public well.”

Mr. Bruschi agreed that the move would promote stability in the fire department, and bring the most qualified firefighters to the fore.

Being the Chief of the Fire Department “is a huge undertaking,” Mr. Bruschi acknowledged.

Another change to the ordinance has to do with the newly-created Associate Member position, which allows trained Princeton University staff to volunteer with the Fire Department during work hours.

Since associate members do not formally belong to any of the three fire companies, the ordinance states that should they wish to join the New Jersey State Fireman’s Association (NJSFA), they would be required to join one of the fire companies and thus lose their associate member status. They would also be responsible for the cost of a new physical required by NJSFA.

The public hearing and adoption of the ordinance is scheduled for October 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Borough Hall.

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