the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, at Wednesday Council meeting, Mayor Susan Knudsen read a written statement that, defending her position to reduce the role of emergency services and shift daytime emergency medical services coverage to the Ridgewood Fire Department. The latest budget calls for the addition of two more firefighters.
Resident Linda Scarpa, who has repeatedly made public comments criticizing the “defunding” of the emergency services, again called on the Council to rethink their plan. Scarpa said that she has estimated that the two additional firefighters would cost the Village $200,000 per year. This figure is not being disputed by either Mayor Knudsen or Village Manager Heather Mailander.
While Chief Van Goor stated in February that hiring more firefighters will be more cost effective in their first years, these are positions which have salaries and benefits which increase to over $100,000 a year for each firefighter hired – more than our entire per diem staff and Emergency Services Chief’s salaries combined, and a third of our department’s entire budget.
While Knudsen maintained that safety is at issue in the decision to vastly reduce the role of emergency services, Scarpa said that Knudsen is reacting to one incident during 2019 in which an EMS worker fell asleep on the job. That person was subsequently terminated, Scarpa said. There are currently nine part time, per-diem emergency medical service workers who would be eliminated under the proposed budget.
Scarpa said ,“This will compromise the safety of our village during a pandemic,” , adding that firefighters’ first responsibility is to respond to fires.
Resident Cynthia Olsen said, “I have an 87-year-old mother…and I want to be sure when I call 911 the firehouse is not diverted to a fire. Mom just spent nine days in the hospital and the EMT’s saved her life.”
Ridgewood Emergency Services has maintained that they are not a failing department. They are being purposely dismantled for the benefit of the Ridgewood Fire Department at the cost of caring for the residents of Ridgewood.