After months of negotiations, the Township of Montclair and Borough of Glen Ridge have finalized a fire services contract to carry the two municipalities through 2012. Officials on either side of the bargaining table are calling the accord an absolute win-win situation.
Since 1990, Glen Ridge and Montclair have forged a relationship for contracted fire services, marking one of the largest interlocal service agreements found in New Jersey to date. It was not until 1997 that the State of New Jersey even recognized the importance of interlocal agreements through its REDI / REAP programs. The progressive partnership between Glen Ridge and Montclair will continue to provide the borough a high-quality, full-time fire department, and provide Montclair the chance to maintain appropriate staffing levels and modern equipment, according to borough officials.
This is the third time the neighboring municipalities have reached a fire services accord: the first contract was implemented in 1990 and then renewed under the same terms in 1996. Today's announcement will begin retroactive to January 1, 2003.
"The council and I are extremely pleased with the outcome of these contract negotiations," said Mayor Steven Plate. "For the last 13 years, the Township of Montclair and its firefighters have provided Glen Ridge with professional, high-level fire services, and we look forward to continuing our successful relationship with them. Together Glen Ridge and Montclair will continue to serve as a model for the rest of the State to follow."
The new contract calls for annual payment increases to Montclair of 1 percent less than the annual wage increase agreed upon by that township and its local firefighters' union. Glen Ridge paid $822,000 to Montclair last year for fire services. Should Montclair agree one year to an abnormally high wage increase, Glen Ridge's financial obligation would be limited that year to the average raise among area paid fire departments.
According to Borough Administrator Michael J. Rohal, the agreement defers Glen Ridge's payment of salary increases in 2004, 2006 and 2009 until December 31, 2012. This provision will yield substantial savings to borough taxpayers. If Glen Ridge renews its fire suppression agreement with Montclair, or if Montclair regionalizes its department, then Glen Ridge's deferred payments are waived entirely.
The forward thinking contract goes beyond fire suppression services. It looks to how the two municipalities can utilize each other's assets in an effective manner. Borough taxpayers also can expect to find cost-savings in other areas. Upon the retirement of the Glen Ridge Fire Official, the borough will outsource its Uniform Fire Code enforcement to Montclair, marking a potential $5,000 in annual savings. In addition, Montclair will take on responsibility for the borough's annual water system flushing, a savings of approximately $3,500 to Glen Ridge taxpayers.
"This contract gives Glen Ridge cost-savings and additional services and gives Montclair stability in the future planning of its fire suppression service," said Plate. "It's an ideal partnership. The agreement provides a higher quality of services for both municipalities while decreasing the tax burden for residents."
Furthermore, Glen Ridge youngsters stand to benefit from another provision in the 10-year accord: the borough will be able to use Montclair's Washington Field from August 15 to November 31 from 3 to 6pm weekdays and from noon to 6pm on weekends. In addition, the borough can use the field from March 15 to May 31 on Sundays when Montclair does not have other games scheduled. In order to use the field previously, Glen Ridge annually applied for a permit and paid a fee.
The borough can renew its contract with Montclair in its 10th year under the same terms and conditions as those negotiated for the contract announced today. Under the terms of this contract, Montclair must include Glen Ridge in regionalization plans should its fire department pursue that option; as an additional service, the Montclair Fire Department will offer basement pumping services to Glen Ridge residents at the same fee offered to Montclair residents.
Glen Ridge's Mayor Steven Plate stated, "Mayor Russo and both Councils should be very proud. This contract proves that two towns can sit down and effectively come to agreement on how best to provide for each other's needs."