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Reader says The Ridgewood Fire Department provides the most cost effective Fire Service by having a career staff backed up by a volunteer staff

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file photo Boyd Loving

Reader says The Ridgewood Fire Department provides the most cost effective Fire Service by having a career staff backed up by a volunteer staff.

Having an part paid and part volunteer (called combination Department) the Ridgewood Fire Department is hardly a luxury. There are 3 communities in Bergen County, including Ridgewood, that have a combination department. The Ridgewood Fire Department provides the most cost effective Fire Service by having a career staff backed up by a volunteer staff.

Because the Ridgewood Fire Dept. has career Fire Inspectors the Village has always had a very low incidence of fires, usually less than 3% of the total incident calls between 2010-2012.

For the 35% of the calls that involve life saving rescues or emergency medical calls, where time is the difference between life and death, the career staff has an average response time of 2 to 4 minutes. A volunteer only staff would take 3 to 4 minutes just to respond to the Fire Station and then take another 4 to 5 minutes to reach the person in need of immediate care. A total of 8 minutes or more is not acceptable in fire or medical situations.

The operating cost is not only reasonable for the Fire Dept. but for most residents the cost for Fire Service is a deductible item on their Income Tax Return (property taxes) at the same rate that their tax rate is for their Federal 1040, which reduces the cost of the service by up to 35%, while at the same time the Fire Dept career and volunteer staffing provides an ISO rating of 2 which is responsible for the low fire insurance rates residents and commercial property owners enjoy.

Someone said “But the operating budget ignores the long-term cost for new equipment & buildings…..” This is just one example of how uninformed this person is, the cost for buildings, training, Firefighter protective gear, injury insurance, fuel, Apparatus and uniforms, to name just a few things, are all part of any department career or volunteer.

The same person talks about a very generous defined benefit pension & healthcare benefits for life for police and firefighters. The same could be said about the employees of the BOE, yet this individual has yet to examine the 90 Million dollar BOE budget the same way they focus on the 5 Million Fire Dept. Budget which makes me wonder……

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32 thoughts on “Reader says The Ridgewood Fire Department provides the most cost effective Fire Service by having a career staff backed up by a volunteer staff

  1. Maybe the author of this can explain why we paid for four fire captains from June 2011 to August 2012 ? One top lieutenant was appointed for the third captain’s position in June of 2011, but was then “returned” to his position as a lieutenant in August 2012 after another lieutenant was retroactively named a captain to June 1, 2011. For some reason, the lieutenant was able to retire as a “Captain” in December 2012 according to the RFD annual report. He made $147,566 in his stint as captain but wasn’t docked any of that pay after he returned to his position as a top lieutenant at a salary of $141,300. In other words, the village paid for four captains from June 2011 to August 2012, when its departmental structure calls for three captains. The final salary for his pension calculation was $149,458, so clearly this includes his pay as a Captain, and gives him a pension payment of $8,407 per month and over $100K per year. The guy was 50 when he retired, so asusming he lives an average lifespan to 80 years, he gets that pension at his Captain’s pay for 30 years. Why do taxpayers get abused like this ?

  2. How does a RFD retiree get +$100K annual pension at age 50 when his final salary for his pension calculation was “only” $149,458 ? I though pensions were only 60% of this, which would imply an annual pension of only $89,675. To get to +$100,800 at 60% you would need a final salary for the pension calculation of over $168,100. How do you explain the $18,680 difference ? It make a big difference to taxpayers given the average retirement age of a fire fighter is 52.

  3. # 1 from what I understand you must ask the Great Dr gabbert. He felt he was mightier than the civil service process. He promoted the way he wanted not the way the process is ment to work. So the person he promoted who had to be demoted because he was playing god struck a deal. Instead of be demoted and staying and so DR gabbert could save face he signed off on the deal. Dr gabbert should of been forced to pay out of his pocket !

  4. The answer to your question #1

    Simply put, Ken Gabbert, who knew very little about civil service rules, caused this problem when he passed over the #1 and #2 ranked candidates on the promotional list to promote the #3 candidate. The #2 candidate, a military veteran, contested the appointment of the #3 candidate with civil service, and like our justice system the wheels of civil service turn very slowly. Ken Gabbert initially claimed that he was not aware #2 was a veteran. Yet when presented with the Civil Service suit citing #2 as a veteran he defended his appointment of #3 over #2 the veteran.

    It took over a year for the Civil Service Commission to rule on the appointment of #3 over the two other candidates #1 & #2. Without going into great detail the Civil Service Commission ruled the Village was in violation of their promotional rules involving a veteran and reversed the appointment of #3 and required the Village to appoint #1 and #2 to the rank of Fire Captain.

    Because candidate #3 worked in the title of Captain for over a year he was paid as such and retired at that rate. The Village was ordered to make back payments to candidate #2 since he should have been promoted instead of candidate #3. Had the appropriate appointment of #2 been made and he would have received the salary of Captain for over a year and that is why he was paid Captains pay retroactively. Ken Gabbert’s mistake is why the taxpayers paid for 4 captains from June 2011 to August 2012

  5. Thanks #4, very clear. We’re also now paying that pension at the Captain rate as well if candidate #3 worked in the title of Captain for over a year he was paid as such and retired at that rate, correct ? When candidate #2 retires, we’ll also pay him out at Captain’s rate on his pension, too, so we get four captain’s pensions instead of three, seems like tapxayers are the only losers from Gabbert’s mistake ?

  6. #5 you are correct. Now don’t shoot the messanger. It is not his fault that he retired a captain. Go find the great and powerful Dr gabbert and get it from him !

  7. That is just one incident where Grabbit cost the taxpayers money needlessly.

  8. Sounds like a rookie mistake. So much for the PhD and municipal experience !

  9. gabbert did not save this town anything, boy he made a lot of money. what a waste.

  10. Dr. Gabbert was the third choice on a list of 4 the 3 others wanted too much money and Gabbert was willing to work for a lot less money, (low balled) is the term they used, but to Gabbert it was still more money because he was working in Little Ferry@ the time. The end result is the village got what it paid for, (the bottom of the barrel) and it cost the tax payer dearly, In bad decisions.

    1. Sorry but Gabbert was no more or no less of a spender than any of his predecessors, perhaps you for got Tenhove’s car crashes and $500,000 toilet

  11. James, Dr. Gabberts expense to the village came by bad decisions and incompetence. Jim Tenhoves car crashes were incidental compared to foul ups Gabbert did. What never was reconciled publicly was whether or not Gabbert was advised by the villages Labor Attorney on those matters, and or if the village attorney Rogers was involved. If they were and Gabbert ignored their advice, well he’s gone anyway. If the good doctor G asked their advice and it was wrong maybe the wrong guy got fired.

  12. James, your comment just shows how much you don’t know about Gabbert and the damage he did in the Village!

  13. James, I’m #12, if your post was to me. Let me assure you I know more than you think, my info is completely first hand. I am fully aware of the damage he did but what has not been reconciled was if he made the decisions on his own or under advice of council. If the decisions were made in group mode the whole legal team should have been ousted.

  14. What is the story about the 500k toilet ? I assume you are referring to the one behind the bandshell.

  15. Enough already with the Kenny g bashing. He is gone. Get over him.

  16. Tommy boy you need to stop sticking up for the great and wonderful dr g. A question was asked and its just so happened dr g was the answer. He caused the problem and he fixed it his way on the backs of the taxpayers. The reader was blaming the employees but but it was his fault. So lets call a spade a spade !


  17. Anonymous:

    Enough already with the Kenny g bashing. He is gone. Get over him.

    So the Council hires he 3rd most qualified candidate because he low balled his salary, but then he re-opened the CBAs in 2010, adding considerably to Village long-term liabilities in the process, just so he could raise the spread between the top Public safety managers and the employees. Then he goes to the Council and asks for a retroactive pay raise because he thinks he should get paid more than the people reporting to him. Then 4/5 Council members raise his pay 12% retroactively after selecting him initially because he low balled his salary. And now we’re just supposed to “Get over him” ? Nice.

    1. yes unless you are going to also mention Tehoves car and pedestrian crashes , Ridgewoood Water fiasco ( currently in court) and his $500,000 golden toilet and while you are at it let talk about the $9 million Village hall renovation ( a monumental F-Up ) . You see Gabbert is just one of a long line Village managers making a mess out of things the list my friends is endless, so yes a couple of fire fighters can get over it .

  18. James, gabber was the one who put a stop to the goings on at rwd water, the golden toilet was a council project, don’t hang that one on Ten Hoeve, The 9 million fiasco was Larry worths doing. That being said Gabberts Lack of Knowledge about civil service was costly both financially and disruptive to the fd. There is still the issue of legal advice and decision making, did dr gabber ever seek labaor advice from the labor attorney and or the village attorney Mr. Rogers was there during Gabberts tenure.

    1. I do agree that Gabbert made some costly bad decisions ,but the Ridgewood Water suit is going to “hit the fan ” soon and its going to be ugly as for the golden toilet Tenhove ran the project , my point it Gabbert was just one in a long line


  19. Anonymous:

    James, gabber was the one who put a stop to the goings on at rwd water,

    What goings on ? Seems like it’s a black hole, now Gabbert serves on the Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority (NBCUA), which services Allendale, Franklin Lakes, Ho-Ho-Kus, Mahwah, Midland Park, Ramsey, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Waldwick, Wyckoff and “a portion of the Village of Ridgewood” for wastewater treatment and management.

  20. James, any updates on the generator fiasco ? The cop who stole $180,000 ? The claims that VoR taxpayers were billed for OEM parts that were never installed on Village vehicles ? The debt the Village took on to build a parking garage which was never built ? Has Rica started to pay back taxpayers ? Where did ALL that money go ? How much are we on the hook for from the Ridgewood Water suit fiasco ? Seems like taxpayers are the only ones who pay for any of this, where is the accountability ?

  21. any response to post #2 above ? How do you get a +$100,000 pension from a final salary for pension calculation of $149,000 ? I thought the final salary was an average of the final three years, not including OT and holiday pay. That’s more like 67%, not 60% of the final salary for pension calculation. Was that another side deal cut by the former VM at the expense of taxpayers ?

  22. 60% pension limitation starts with those hired after a specific date, can’t recall what it is. Those hires previously are grandfathered under the old calculations formula. The “deal” was legislated in Trenton and really had nothing to do with the village if Gabbert didn’t screw up the man to whom you refer might still be working for the village.

  23. That’s sad, the man messed with peoples lives and left the taxpayer to clean up the mess.

  24. I believe employees with 20 or more years of service as of 2011 will retire under the old pension rules and everyone else with less years of service will retire under the new pension rules #25

  25. Thanx 27

  26. You’re welcome #27


  27. Anonymous:

    I believe employees with 20 or more years of service as of 2011 will retire under the old pension rules and everyone else with less years of service will retire under the new pension rules #25

    Thanks #27, so that would imply that anyone who retires from 2011 to 2016 should have been grandfathered in under this clause and will get paid out under the old rules, correct ? We’ll have seven senior officers retiring from the PD in 2014, so assume they have the same deal. Seems like the Village is going to see some pretty explosive growth in retirees in the next few years ?

  28. #30 to add fuel, the village has not taken enough steps to replace those who are retiring this will cause a further manpower shortage and high overtime bills. Don’t start with outside entities or specials it’s illegal in the specials case, and other towns around aren’t going to subsidize rwd’s refusal to hire with manpower paid for by the surrounding towns taxpayer.

  29. Thanks #31, so we have a manpower issue in public safety that we should have been planning for in advance, correct ? What is the risk that Public safety suffers as new hires take time to train ? Again, taxpayers are left holding the bill on this assuming it generates lots of OT next year. Specials could be hired for the PSE&G work; obviously the officers are off duty, but the Village would make more money not having to pay as much of the contract rate to the specials as to the off duty officer, correct ? We might also save on wear & tear and fuel costs of Village vehicles.

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