Woodcliff Lake (NJ) Officials Deny Fire Apparatus Request

The Woodcliff Lake governing body denied approval to pay for what firefighters say is much-needed new pumper.

On Feb. 9, the council voted down a resolution 4-2 to authorize the town’s Chief Financial Officer Harold Laufeld to prepare a bond ordinance to buy the engine.

“[I’m] extremely disappointed,” said Deputy Chief Dan Schuster to the council before he and a handful of firefighters who were present that evening left abruptly after the vote.

The pumper was something the fire department has stressed it needed for months, as it was passed its 25-year life-expectancy and has concerns with safety. On a tour of the fire department in November, Schuster and Capt. Rob Kuehlke showed the council its 1989 Pierce Lance Arrow, which they were seeking to replace with a 2014 Pierce Arrow XT, which has LED lights, seatbelts and front and side airbags, among other amenities. The new pumper, Schuster said, was slated to cost $615,000, and excludes an additional $45,000 or $50,000 in needed equipment.

“We really felt we did our due diligence with our presentation,” said Schuster in a phone interview after the meeting.

The deputy chief added that given dwindling membership, the department has to “do more with less people.” Currently, he said membership in the borough is “OK.” However, the borough’s fire department has roughly 50 members, a mere 12 to 15 of which are Woodcliff Lake residents.

Department heads said previously that they were planning to purchase the pumper online via the Houston-Galveston Area Council – which awards contracts made available to local governments throughout the nation – by mid-summer to train before the inclement months. Council members Jacqueline Gadaleta and Eric Bloom voted in favor of the new pumper, which they saw as a good investment.

While the Republicans did not give a reason for their decision that evening, councilmen Corrado Belgiovine and Tom Panso said after the meeting that they wish to finish budget talks before determining capital expenditures. Panso added that all other departments, including the police, public works, seniors and Tri-Boro Ambulance Corps have also placed requests for vehicles in the upcoming budget.

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