Chesilhurst Fire Chief At Odds With Council

Posted: March 05, 1989

If the Chesilhurst Fire Department does not receive more financial and moral support from borough officials, a fire district with its own taxing powers will have to be established to provide the 1,700 borough residents adequate fire protection, the fire chief said recently.

Chief Robert Barney, who has headed the department for five years, said his department was demoralized because the 15 firefighters felt they did not have the support of the mayor and council. Others have been discouraged from volunteering, he said.

The mayor and council recently denied the fire department the use of a borough-owned vehicle and told the department it had to return $4,000 from its $12,000 annual budget because the money hadn't been spent by November.

Barney said the car in question, a 1979 Ford LTD, was no longer needed by the police department when two new cars were purchased for the police in 1987. The fire department asked for the use of the car to pick up equipment and to attend training classes and seminars, he said.

Several months ago Mayor Arland Poindexter requested a "letter of intent"

from the fire department, explaining how the car would be used, Barney said. That letter was sent four months ago, but the fire department has not been granted permission to use the vehicle.

Since that time, he said, the car has been parked at the fire station, which is on the White Horse Pike. He added that the fire department purchased new tires for the car and had body work done on it. In addition, the title to the car was transferred to the fire department and insurance premiums were paid.

The problem still remains because the council has failed to give authorization to use the car, Barney said. "All council has to do is to say

from this day on they have use of this car. I think it's political. It's totally unnecessary."

Barney, a former councilman, was defeated in his bid for a second term in November. He was the only member of the council to speak out publicly against a proposed $3 million incinerator that will be built on the White Horse Pike to burn hospital waste and borough trash.

The fire chief said his department received $12,000 for operating expenses

from the borough and an additional $3,000 from fund-raising activities. In November, the borough demanded that the fire department return $4,000 because it had not been spent. Barney said the money wasn't spent because they "try to preserve funds until the end of the year."

Barney said that if problems with borough officials persisted, forming a fire district may be the only solution to combating continuing problems.

"We're trying to educate ourselves about the creation of a fire district. I try to stay abreast of what is going on. But the first thing they say is it (fire district) will cost you more money. But is that (costing more money) worth a life?" the fire chief said.

Mayor Poindexter said the police chief had transferred the car to the fire department without the approval of the mayor and the council. He said that officials were concerned about who would use the car and what it would be used for.

Poindexter said the fire department was not the only borough department to forfeit money that had not been spent by November.

He said that every department head was aware of this borough policy. In addition to the fire department, Poindexter said, the Recreation Department was affected. These funds were used for streets and roads and to defray the costs of trash collection.

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