Harlem Twp. replacement fire levy on November 6 ballot
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
At 26.5 square miles, with 1,650 homes, 4,600 residents and a good mix of younger and older residents, Harlem Township may seem like one of those places where nothing much happens. But Harlem Division of Fire Chief Dale Fling will tell you that the township has its fair share of emergency situations. During 2011 Harlem Division of Fire responded to 499 calls – approximately 60 percent EMS runs, the rest were fire and rescue.
Fling estimates his department will exceed 2011 numbers. As of the end of September this year Harlem Division of Fire responded to 429 calls; and with winter approaching weather related calls tend to increase.
Harlem Township has a four-year, 3.5-mil fire protection renewal levy on the November ballot, and Fling said he wants township residents to understand that the levy is not new money.
“The 3.5-mil levy will collect at the current amount, no increase, it’s simply renewing the levy that’s slated to expire at the end of this year,” Fling said. “We understand that times are what they are with the economy. We’ve all got to do what we have to do to stay where we are; and this levy will allow the department to maintain current staffing levels and operations.”
Fling said the 3.5-mil fire levy would cost township property owners $107.19 per year per $100,000 property valuation, or $.29 per day.
While not asking for new money, Fling did say that for the past two years the Harlem Division of Fire has been spending, in his words, real close to what the levy has been bringing in; and the renewal levy will actually generate less money than it has in the past due to reevaluation of property values in the township.
While doing their best to keep costs under control by maintaining equipment, some needs cannot be avoided, Fling said, like hoses, ladders and CBA gear that do not meet annual test standards – and those replacement costs tend to escalate.
Fling briefly ran down numbers. Harlem Division of Fire has 41 personnel, seven full-time including the Fire Chief, and 34 part-time and on-call firefighters.
All Harlem firefighters are trained to Firefighter 2 professional firefighter qualifications, 15 are basic EMT’s, 20 are Paramedics. The department’s personnel list also boasts a number of certifications as instructors, rescue technicians, fire safety inspectors, HAZMAT technicians and rescue divers.
Typical on duty staffing consists of four personnel at the Harlem Firehouse 24 hours a day – two full-time and two part-time — and always includes at least one Paramedic and most times includes an officer.
The first line vehicle out the door is a Sutphen Quint, followed by an engine rescue truck. The department also has two tanker/water-tenders, a medic unit and a grass truck.
“The department began a fire hydrant program in 2006 to help establish better water resources for firefighting and to reduce homeowners insurance rates,” Fling added. “To date that program has installed 82 new fire hydrants which have directly affected over 60 percent of all homes and businesses in the township.”
Fling said that members of the Harlem Township Board of Trustees and the Division of Fire administration are committed to providing quality, rapid, courteous and professional emergency services to the residents and visitors of Harlem Township, while working within the financial means provided by the taxpayers.
“We realize times are very hard and make every effort to work within the dollars taxpayers give us,” Fling said. “Some capital improvements have been pushed out farther than we’d hoped for, a big issue is always dependability, but I’m fortunate that I’m out in front of a great team of firefighters that the residents of Harlem Township can be proud of.”