SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — On July 11, the South Orange Board of Trustees unanimously authorized a resolution awarding a contract to Manitou Incorporated to conduct “an analysis of the operational efficiencies of and the feasibility of consolidation, merger or sharing of South Orange and Maplewood’s Municipal Fire Protection Services.” Then, on July 25, the Maplewood Township Committee similarly approved the contract, paving the way for a comprehensive study of the two fire departments.
For the past couple of years, there has been more and more discussion regarding merging the two towns’ fire departments, which could lead to efficiencies that save the community money. There has been concern, however, because a merged fire department, if done incorrectly, could result in a less efficient and more spread-out department. This is where the study comes in.
Manitou, a leading consulting firm that is nationally recognized in the field of fire protection and emergency services organization, administration and planning, has conducted numerous fire service studies, including consolidation and efficiency studies for communities as large as Houston, Texas, and Broward County, Fla.
“The Joint Committee was extremely impressed with Manitou,” village President Sheena Collum said in a press release. “We are confident that they will conduct a thorough and objective assessment of both departments, with no predefined outcomes, to identify opportunities for our residents to receive better and more cost-effective fire services, whether through improvements to the independent operations of each department or through sharing, consolidation or merger of equipment, personnel or operations.”
“The goal of our towns is to deliver the highest quality fire services to both communities,” Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said in the release. “We believe Manitou will help us creatively think about the best ways to do that. All stakeholders will be heard as we move forward and we will fully engage the community in considering the recommendations from Manitou.”
The award of the contract is the result of a process which began in September of 2015, when the South Orange and Maplewood governing bodies adopted companion resolutions authorizing and creating a Joint Exploratory Committee for the purpose of exploring possible efficiencies in the delivery of fire services to their communities through possible shared, consolidated or merged services.
The Joint Committee eventually recommended the solicitation of competitive bids from qualified firms, which ultimately resulted in the selection of Manitou to conduct the study. The total contract amount is not to exceed $47,513.00, which will be split equally by the two towns.
For more information on this, see the story to be published in the News-Record’s Aug. 4 issue.