Council Wants Fire Co Leaders To Step Down

Photo by Stephanie A. Faughnan

  TUCKERTON – The governing body adopted a resolution requesting the current leadership of Tuckerton Volunteer Fire Company Number One to step aside from their roles.

  Aside from Councilman Mike Dupuis, who abstained from the vote because he recently applied to join the fire company, all remaining members cast their votes in favor of approving the resolution.

  Councilman Brian Martin said the move aims to pave the way for new leadership to take charge and endeavor to bring the company up to the required minimum standards.

  Borough officials implemented an indefinite suspension of the volunteer fire company as the designated first responders on June 9, 2022. Over the last five months, the governing body has made efforts to collaborate with the current leadership in defining the required standards for potential reinstatement.

  “On Oct. 31st, I received a revised agreement from the Tuckerton Fire Co. Number One in response to the agreement that the Borough had sent their legal counsel to be reinstated as the designated first responder for fire protection services within the Borough,” said Martin.

  Martin added that the fire department’s legal counsel submitted revisions that he considered a list of demands, including an increase in annual funding, new radio equipment, and a refund for repairs and maintenance that were not performed.

  The requested revisions sought an increase in annual donations from the Borough to $90,000. The department is also asking the borough to purchase new radio equipment.

  In addition, the fire department is seeking a refund of $22,362.50 for repairs and maintenance that were not performed on a fire truck while it was in service. The department claims that the borough is responsible for these costs. The increased costs would impact the amount allocated to the fire department in the Borough’s current budget.

  Martin said that the fire department officials are not in a position to make demands since they are not in compliance with New Jersey state standards. He also said that the revisions submitted by the fire department had not come up at all during meetings back in July.

  “I see it strictly as a stall tactic and an effort to prolong putting Tuckerton Fire Co. Number One back in service,” said Martin. “It has become apparent to me that we are no closer to solving the issue than we were on June 9, 2022.”

  In the event that current fire department leaders refuse to resign, Martin recommended that the Borough Council consider challenging the tax-free status of their buildings and grounds at 111 North Green Street.

  Members of the public voiced their discontent during the public comments section of the meeting in response to the resolution. Lee Eggert and his son, Dale Eggert, both longstanding members of the local fire department, expressed their concerns about the decision.

  “We didn’t make any demands,” Lee said. “The borough sent us a proposal one night after a meeting. We answered back the proposal. Things were talked about, things were discussed, things were changed. Now we sent back our ideas.”

  “Nobody called us up,” continued Lee. “Nobody negotiated and nobody talked. And, we didn’t demand – that’s a blatant lie.”

  Lee said the revisions weren’t intended as demands and added that the inference that the department wasn’t trying to do anything to get itself back in service was not true. He also questioned whether council members actually had any appreciation for its volunteers.

  “It’s not a negotiation,” Martin replied. “It’s the minimum standard that needs to be met, and it starts with the Division of Fire Safety getting a letter saying we’re certified, we’re compliant, we’re good.”

  At the time the fire company service was suspended, Dale Eggert held the position of fire chief. Despite no longer being an active firefighter, he attended the meeting to share his thoughts. Dale questioned the motivation for individuals to volunteer when he believed volunteers were not treated appropriately.

  Dale claimed that Councilman Frank D’Amore escalated issues to the state level in an attempt to stop operation of the local department.

  D’Amore countered, reminding Dale that he’d said problems with the certifications were merely a clerical problem and asked why they still hadn’t been rectified.

  “The reason you were put out of service (was) because of a letter condemning the service, from the state,” D’Amore said. “If we did not react to that letter, then we would be liable for leaving you out in service.”

  The fire company has retained attorney Ellen McDowell to work with the Borough in reinstating them. Fire department officials said she is hopeful the two entities can come to an agreement to resolve the issue and return local fire service to the community.

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Stephanie A. Faughnan is an award-winning journalist associated with Micromedia Publications/Jersey Shore Online and the director of Writefully Inspired. Recognized with two Excellence in Journalism awards by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, Stephanie's passion lies in using the power of words to effect positive change. Her achievements include a first-place award in the Best News Series Print category for the impactful piece, "The Plight Of Residents Displaced By Government Land Purchase," and a second-place honor for the Best Arts and Entertainment Coverage category, specifically for "Albert Music Hall Delivers Exciting Line-Up For 25th Anniversary Show." Stephanie can be contacted by email at