MADISON – In a prepared statement, Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Councilwoman Astri Baillie and former Board of Education member Debra Coen, point to the quality and effectiveness of Madison’s fire and police departments.
Baillie and Coen stated, “Public safety – the services provided by our police and fire departments – has always been very important to Madison residents. Since the inception of the departments – fire in 1881 and police in 1890 – they have received widespread support in Madison that continues to this day.
The residents that we speak to, as we campaign door-to-door, are pleased with the services the departments are providing. Affirmation of our residents’ feelings came in 2017 when we learned that the home security group SafeWise named Madison the safest city to raise a child in New Jersey and one of the 50 safest in the country.”
The candidates continued, “We believe that in addition to strong leadership and well-trained staff, successful public safety departments have two additional attributes in common, their equipment is up to date and well maintained and they have strong community relationships. We all know that both departments have superb leadership and unmatched relationships with the Madison community. What is not so well-known is the emphasis on training in each department.
An important source for training for our police officers is the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy, where Chief Dachisen is a member of the advisory board. The department is flexible, however, looking for the best training resources, whether they be online or outside of Morris County or even the state. It is impressive that brief descriptions of the training activities that our officers have participated in the past year fill over 300 pages!
The fire department’s view of training is consistent with the police. Within the first five years of joining all firefighters – career and volunteer – need to obtain New Jersey certification as a Firefighter 1, which requires passing an exam after attending 184 hours of training. In addition, firefighters are required to attend an annual refresher course to maintain their certification. There is also a higher rank, Firefighter 2 that requires 96 additional hours of training and the passing of an exam to receive NJ certification. Many of the topics covered under this level of training also require annual refresher courses, some as long as 30 hours.
For well-trained staff to be most effective requires that they have access to up-to-date and well-maintained equipment. Ensuring that this equipment is available to our police and fire fighters is an ongoing, collaborative effort between the departments, the borough administration, and Council.”
Debra Coen offered the following example of how this collaboration has worked: “We know that the wear and tear on our police cars require they be replaced on a regular basis. An innovative method of paying for these cars adopted by Council a few years ago imposes little to no burden on our taxpayers. Our officers are often hired by contractors outside their normal working hours to provide on-site safety. Several years ago, it was determined that the borough’s charges for such services were below market. The Council supported an increase to prevailing market rates with the proviso that our officers would continue to receive their same level of compensation, but now the difference between what the officers earn and what is charged goes into a fund earmarked for the acquisition of cars. On average this fund supports the purchase of two cars a year.”
“There are other equipment acquisitions that can be expensive and potentially a strain on the budget,” observed Councilwoman and Finance liaison Astri Baillie. “A few years ago, Council and the administration adopted the use of five year plans for capital budgeting. Together with accurate long range planning, our CFO is able to accrue the cost of expensive equipment over several budget cycles, thus minimizing the impact on a particular year’s budget. Currently, this pay-as-you go budgeting is being used to aggregate sufficient funds for a needed update to the police communication system and the future replacement of a 28-year-old fire engine and a 23-year-old rescue vehicle.
Examples of other equipment purchases designed to make Madison even safer and our public safety officers more effective include the acquisition of thermal imaging cameras by our fire department that facilitate seeing through smoke and body cameras for our police officers. Under consideration is a computer-based method for collecting parking fees from our commuter lots and the addition of surveillance cameras on Main Street at major intersections.”
Baillie and Coen concluded, “The services provided by our public safety departments are critical and appreciated by our residents. Our police and fire fighters are well led, well trained, and are engaged in very meaningful and positive ways with the community. As members of the Madison Borough Council it will be our job to work with the police and fire department leadership and the borough administration to ensure they have the equipment they need in a timely manner and that it is paid for in a fiscally responsible way.”