A Gloucester County judge has sided with the borough’s mayor and council in a lawsuit over the ownership of equipment in the town firehouse.
The case, which was settled on Friday by Superior Court Judge Georgia M. Curio, decided the ownership of a wide array of items left in the firehouse after volunteers with the Newfield Volunteer Fire Co. stopped handling fire calls in the borough in early 2014.
The former volunteers argued that the items, which ranged from radios and rescue equipment to a commercial stove and cookware used in fundraising events, belonged to them. Borough officials, meanwhile, argued that residents and borough agencies had donated money and equipment knowing it would be used for fire service in town. Curio ultimately gave all firefighting and rescue equipment to the borough, although the courts had not yet released the written decision on Monday.
“Quite a number of longtime residents came forward and testified that they would not have made donations if they had known the equipment wouldn’t stay in the borough to help Newfield residents,” said John Eastlack, borough solicitor. “And the judge commented on that.”
The sudden stop in service that left all this property in limbo was a response to council’s 2013 removal of Fire Chief Bill Mason, which fire company members claimed was an overreach of the council’s executive powers. In the spring, after a long contentious court battle, borough council began the creation of a new volunteer fire company, and the Newfield Fire Dept. launched on July 1.
After four days of hearings on Aug. 7, Curio gave the vast majority of the property to the borough. The town’s former volunteers were allowed to keep a few symbolic items, such as a large sign that once stood outside bearing the company’s name and a plaque with the names of deceased firefighters.
“We were pretty happy with the results,” said Mayor Don Sullivan. “Hopefully this can save the borough some tax money by not having to purchase that equipment over again.”
He expressed disappointment over only one item.
“I was hoping to keep the memorial plaque,” Sullivan said. “What are they going to do with that?”
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