Hoboken City Council members rejected the concept of a merger with the Jersey City Fire Department at last night’s meeting, which was held last night instead of Wednesday due to Passover.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Hoboken officials said last Monday that they had no immediate plans to merge the departments, though would consider improved mutual aid plans, and about 48 hours later Jersey City revealed they were consulting with Trenton about “more substantial mutual aid.”
The issue came up during last evening’s public portion session, which was otherwise relatively uneventful.
“With the recent news, it seems counterintuitive that we spent $80 million for the DPW garage when we could have potentially explored shared services with our sister cities,” said 1st Ward council candidate Paul Presinzano.
“And while we are hesitant to explore these services in that area, the local news this week dropped a little bit of a bombshell. They reported that the city might be in talks to let another city potentially, and I’ll use the words that were listed, ‘take over our fire department‘ – which is a weird term for shared services.”
Presinzano was referencing an email from Jersey City Fire Officers Local 1064 President Peter Nowak that indicated he and Jersey City Firefighters Local 1066 President Joseph Krajnik are “dead set against the city’s plan” to “take over” the Hoboken FD.
He continued that the $192.5 million “municipal palace” concept that appears to be at a standstill may not have ever been considered if shared services with the DPW and/or fire department had been evaluated first.
During new business, several electeds expressed dismay towards a merger, which Public Safety Director Kenneth Ferrante said at a budget hearing last month would not be a viable options without an “auto aid” mutual aid agreement tested for a couple of years first.
“There is no, and there have been no – to my understanding – conversations with the business administrator, the director of public safety, unions. There is no current discussions for a merger with the Jersey City Fire Department,” said Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero, the chair of the Public Safety Committee.
” … I think there was a brief conversation a year ago. It went nowhere, nothing has happened since. That has been made clear to me. There was a weird email that went around. But it did not germinate from the city. And so there are no backroom deals and no background discussions happening with respect to that topic.”
3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, who asked Ferrante about any potential merger plans with the Hoboken Fire Department at the March 20th Public Safety Department budget hearing, reiterated his position that the HFD must retain their autonomy.
“I think what happened was we had information coming out of Jersey City to the City of Hoboken during those discussions. When I asked at our budget meeting, I asked very specifically, and Director Ferrante was very candid and told us exactly what the City of Hoboken did, what conversations took place,” he stated.
“But I think it’s important, again, going back to my statements earlier, we as a council, make it clear, not only to residents, but to our firefighters: that we are not interested in doing any type of merger, any type of takeover, anything where we are going to lose the autonomy of our own fire department, and that not just our firefighters, it includes our civilian staff and our dispatchers.”
Russo added that in his eyes, their main responsibilities are dealing with the city’s finances and health and safety of residents – which is why their public safety departments need to stay in tact.
Hoboken Council President Emily Jabbour said that officials should approach Ferrante directly about any questions or concerns with the fire department, stating that she felt the rumor mill got out of hand on this one.
“I think that this could have not spun out into being quite the situation that it became in terms of suddenly there’s newspapers doing stories about an email with a rumor and a what if and a meeting held a year ago. Director Ferrante is extremely accessible and responsive to all of us. I know that for certain.”