Proposition: Ordinance Changes Could Regulate Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Co.

Public Hearing Feb. 26
Jan 30, 2019
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The Ship Bottom Borough Council last week introduced proposed changes to an existing ordinance regulating administration and personnel to create a new chapter, titled “fire department.”

“It is hereby determined and declared that the Ship Bottom Fire Company No. 1, a duly incorporated fire company of the state of New Jersey, is the official volunteer fire company of the Borough of Ship Bottom,” the first section of the new chapter reads. As such, the supplemented ordinance sets out to regulate membership requirements, including age and citizenship; fire duty, and the application/dismissal process for membership.

“No person shall hereafter become an active member of the fire company or any unit thereof unless at the time of appointment such person is above the age of 18 years,” the proposed chapter reads. “He/she shall be physically fit to perform the duties of a fire person as evidenced by a certificate to that effect by a practicing physician of the State of New Jersey, after a physical examination had for that purpose.”

Under the proposal, all active members must have U.S. citizenship and participate in at least 40 percent of fire duty, which includes responding to fires and attending drills.

If the changes are adopted, all individuals seeking to join the fire company must apply in writing to the fire company. Then, the name of each applicant and active members will be presented to the council by the fire department secretary for confirmation.

“Prior to confirmation by the Borough Council, the secretary shall request for each prospective member a motor vehicle record check through the Borough of Ship Bottom and a criminal record check through the Ship Bottom Police Department or MORFO Track,” according to the proposal. “The secretary of the fire company shall also request a motor vehicle and criminal record check, as set forth herein, for each person who is an active member of the fire company as of the date of enactment of this chapter.”

The proposal sets in motion a process for removing any member of the fire company for cause and by a majority vote of the members in good standing as well as by a majority of the council. Violation by any member of any of the requirements of the proposed chapter constitutes good cause for removal.

Individuals would be disqualified from membership and considered for removal if they were charged with an indictable offense or are currently under indictment; charged with any offense involving domestic violence; charged with two or more offenses of driving while intoxicated as defined under state statute or was convicted of driving while intoxicated within the last five  years; is currently on probation or has been on probation at any time within the last 12 months; and has pleaded guilty or has been found guilty of any motor vehicle moving violation five or more times within the past two years.

Applicants and active members would also be barred if they’ve been dishonorably discharged from any branch of military service or law enforcement; adjudicated by a court or found by an employer to have violated any person’s civil rights; was convicted of an offense involving or touching on previous public office, position or employment; and renounced his or her United States citizenship.

An active member or applicant with a restraining order for harassing, stalking or threatening, or a restraining order for any domestic violence-related offense would also be disqualified as well as someone who has sold, manufactured or distributed any illegal controlled substance in his or her life; engaged in the unauthorized usage of any illegal drug while employed in a position of public trust; and had a license suspension/revocation and/or multiple motor vehicle violations.

Additionally, the proposed chapter calls for an annual statement to be presented to the borough council by the secretary, listing fire calls, drills, record of attendances at both; and other information requested by the council.

“The Ship Bottom council and Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Co. have always had a strong working relationship, and we see this new ordinance as only strengthening our rapport,” Todd MacLennan, Ship Bottom fire chief, said after reviewing the ordinance. “We all share a vested interest in keeping the borough safe and providing fire safety to the public, and ordinances such as this make that achievable.”

N.J.S.A. 40A:14-68(a) permits the governing body of a municipality that does not have a paid or partially paid fire department to, by ordinance, contract with a volunteer fire company or companies within its borders for the purpose of extinguishing fires.

“The members of any such company shall be under the supervision and control of said municipality and in performing fire duty shall be deemed to be exercising a governmental function,” according to the state statute; “however, the appointment or election of the chief of the volunteer fire company shall remain the prerogative of the membership of the fire company as set forth in the company’s certificate of incorporation or bylaws.”

Council President Edward English and Councilman Peter Rossi were not present at the Jan. 22 meeting. A public hearing on the ordinance and a final vote by the council are expected at its next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 26. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the courtroom of the municipal building, located on Long Beach Boulevard between 16th and 17th streets.

— Gina G. Scala

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