TOMS RIVER – Voters declined a referendum that would have built a new fire station on Irons Street, which would have housed two different stations.
There were two questions on the ballot, but they were connected. Question No. 1 would have appropriated the money, and was voted down 554-306. Question No. 2 would have raised the money, and was voted down 535-307. Toms River Fire Department business administrator Brian Kubiel said these numbers had not been certified yet.
Voters were asked to approve a $14 million bond, even though the cost of the station could have been less. By law, they had to put the maximum amount on the ballot. It would have amounted to about $26-40 a year for the average homeowner, if the department didn’t get any grants to help fund it, officials said.
Fire officials presented a number of reasons for the new building, including how inadequate the two current buildings are. The current buildings are on Water Street and Robbins Street, and are both more than 100 years old.
The election took place on May 13, the same day that a powerful rainstorm flooded many low-lying areas. One of the reasons that the fire company leadership wanted a new building is because the current building on Water Street gets flooded often. On the day of the election, water almost made it into the fire house again, Kubiel said.
“The voters spoke and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.
There is no back-up plan right now to solve the problems with the two old buildings, he said. However, if the company has to build a new station years from now, it will likely be more expensive.
He said there were a considerably higher number of votes cast in District 1, in the shore area, than in previous years. Part of the blame for the vote failing came from a contested primary election coming up. Although he didn’t mention anyone by name, he felt there was someone misinforming the public and using the vote for personal gain.
Justin Lamb, who is running in the Republican primary in District 1, said he called a lot of residents to get them out to vote.
“My main platform is property taxes,” he said. As a volunteer fireman, he said he supports firefighters, but not this referendum. “This is a bad plan. The township doesn’t have the money for this.”