Residents to vote on $401,997 fire budget

Voters also will elect one fire commissioner. Lester Myers Sr. has filed for re-election. He is opposed, so far, by Brian Snell, captain of the Union Fire Company.

By: Sue Kramer
   LAMBERTVILLE — The Board of Fire Commissioners is gearing up for the Feb. 16 elections when residents will vote on a $401,997 budget for 2002 that, if approved, would raise fire taxes an average $16 a year.
   Voters also will be asked to select someone to fill the three-year seat on the board that now is held by Columbia engineer Lester Myers Sr., who has filed for re-election. Opposing him so far is Brian Snell, captain of the Union Fire Company.
   Applications to run for the seat can be obtained at City Hall and must be filed by 4 p.m., Jan. 22.
   The budget, which calls for $339,000 to be raised through taxes, represents a $75,000 increase over last year’s $326,090 budget. An increase from $178,890 to $208,805 in the board’s operating budget reflects higher costs it must pay for insurance, water service, utilities, professional services and supplies. Also adding to the budget total is an increase in the amount the board is saving toward the anticipated purchase of a $350,000 air and cascade truck this year and a $1.2 million ladder truck in 2007.
   The board, chaired by John Howell Jr., has been steadfast in not incurring debt at taxpayers’ expense. The long-standing practice of saving for future equipment purchases allows items to be paid for in cash and avoids the need to take on hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and interest payments.
   The budget, if approved, is estimated to cost the average homeowner around $16 in additional fire district taxes with the rate increasing from 8.4 to 8.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average assessment in Lambertville is now about $174,000.
   At Tuesday night’s meeting, board members were presented with one bid for construction of the new light and cascade truck. The bid, submitted by Rescue 1, a division of PL Custom Emergency Vehicles, was for $308,581. The board will review the specifications and proposal this week with the intent of accepting the bid from the Manasquan, N.J.-based company. It is estimated the chassis alone will take five months to build with 11 months needed for delivery of the truck.
   Part of the system not included in the bid is the air system that will be used to fill air tanks with breathing air. It is expected bids will be received at the Feb. 12 meeting.
   Richard Carmosino, a longtime firefighter, accountant and city tax assessor, was chosen to replace treasurer Kay Hayes, who resigned last month. Mr. Carmosino will receive $4,000 a year plus benefits. The job entails keeping several sets records, including a general ledger, a full encumbrance system and a fixed assets inventory for the fire district. Charles Case, the district’s auditor, told the board a 1985 state directive mandated these records be kept.
   In other matters, the Lambertville Fire Department’s training officer, Deputy Chief Lester Myers Jr., said the training schedule for the first half of 2002 has been set. "Blood Borne Pathogens," "Right to Know" and "Confined Space" courses will be given at 7 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Union firehouse. "HazMat Awareness" will be held Feb. 19; "HazMat Operations" will be held in March; "I-200" (incident command) will be given in April; and "Weapons of Mass Destruction" is scheduled for May.
   These courses are now state-mandated courses for all fire department officers throughout the state. Chief Myers urged all firefighters who are officers and haven’t taken the courses or wish to serve as officers in the future to take the courses while they are being given in Lambertville.
   Lambertville Fire Department regulations have required these courses for all officers for some time, according to Chief Myers. He said the state now is requiring these courses and can assesses a $500 per day personal fine against any officer who lacks these certifications, in addition to a $500 per day fine against the commission and $500 per day assessment against the city until the officer becomes certified.
   The board voted unanimously to remove any fire department officer from his position June 1 if he has not completed all the courses in compliance with state regulations.