by Robert Holt
SWEDESBORO– — During their meeting on Feb. 16, the Swedesboro Council tabled a resolution to adopt an interlocal fire service agreement with Woolwich Township, due to a continued stalemate.
Swedesboro believed they had an agreement to share services of the Woolwich Fire Company in January, but were not satisfied with a Woolwich counter proposal. Swedesboro says the disagreement is about capital items.
“Woolwich thinks they should have full authority on capital items and we should just pay our 30 percent,” said Swedesboro Mayor Tom Fromm. “We said in a counteroffer that we would keep everything the same in 2016, fix their tanker and pay our 30 percent.”
According to the Swedesboro Council, Woolwich Township Mayor Alan Schwager told them not to count on having fire service in Swedesboro. Woolwich Fire Company firefighters Dave Valichka and Brian Slusar, who attended the Swedesboro Council meeting, disagreed.
The men said the fire company took no sides in the matter. Valichka added, “If the agreement ended tomorrow, we’d still be providing service for both towns.” Valichka also pointed out that 85 percent of the company’s members are Swedesboro taxpayers.
“We don’t believe either town has the authority to tell the other who the firefighters serve,” Fromm stated. Councilmember George Weeks agreed, saying, “It isn’t the fire company that is doing that. It’s the town government.”
Councilmember Sam Casella also looked at Woolwich’s government for the issues. “I think the leadership of Woolwich is building their chest and drawing a line in the sand,” he commented. “Swedesboro would pay our fair share.”
“Swedesboro doesn’t bully well,” added Fromm. “We’re going to stand firm and support whatever we have to do to have fire service for our community.”
“We’ve been lied to from the get-go,” observed Councilmember Dave Flaherty. “This agreement has been in place for a long time.”
“Where it stands right now, we have returned a counteroffer and been rejected,” assessed Fromm. “There is no offer on the table at this time.”
Councilmember Joanna Gahrs took note of the fire company’s work in recent extremely cold weather. “They do a terrific job as volunteers, and I commend them on their efforts,” Gahrs praised.
In other resolutions, Council authorized Fromm to sign an agreement for municipalities to form a local consortium to retain E-consult. Fromm said the move was about the Council on Affordable Housing, since Swedesboro’s previous expert had passed away.
Also, Council agreed to hire Thomas Wigmore as a full-time public works employee. “He’s been a great addition based on the recommendation of (Public Works Superintendent) George Wagner,” Fromm noted. “We can budget for it.”
In Finance, Fromm indicated that he expected to have the community budget ready soon. “We’re not up against any great pressure to get it together,” he said.
For Parks and Recreation, Gahrs reported that this year’s Fun Day would expand to two days, on May 14 and 15. The Daddy Daughter Dances were scheduled for March 11 and 12, and Spring Fling would be held on April 30.
Swedesboro Woolwich Environmental Commission’s Matt Cahill attended the meeting, asking Council about information for the proper grants that he should be applying. Fromm requested a concept of Cahill’s plans.
And in Economic Development, Councilmember Diane Hale reported that former Councilmember Patrick Wilbraham has sent a proposal on what he wants to do with the community’s website. Swedesboro has been working on making updates to their site.
Earlier in the evening Fromm mentioned that he had met new Woolwich Police Chief Richard Jaramillo, who said he had some plans for the issues in Swedesboro.