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The Lakewood Board of Fire Commissioners have formally announced that they are accepting applications for the new position of "Fire Prevention Specialist."

However, this application process is only a "hokus-pokus charade," as they already have their eyes set on their favorite choice.

The minimum and maximum annual salary range for the position of is set at $45,000 to $75,000, however, the total cost to the taxpayer will actually be higher. The fire district's annual budget for the current fiscal year appropriates a total of $93,584 in taxpayer funds for this position; $50,000 for the annual salary for this new position, $33,798 for Employee Group Health Insurance and $9,786 for Other Fringe Benefits.

The Lakewood Fire District does not currently have a salaried Fire Prevention Specialist. A number of years ago, they had several volunteer firefighters, at the helm of Volunteer Firefighter Jacob Woolf, visiting camps and schools upon request. A couple of years ago, Firefighter Woolf began to receive a $500 monthly stipend for being the Fire Prevention Coordinator.

The spreadsheet below lists the work done by the Fire Prevention Coordinator from January to May of this year.

At some point last year, the Board of Fire Commissioners decided that the $500 monthly stipend needed to be turned into a $93,584 annual expenditure.

On March 29, 2022, the Board of Fire Commissioners took the first step to turning this into a $93,584 annual expenditure by adopting on first reading a resolution creating the paid position of "Fire Prevention Specialist." The resolution notes that this position shall be a minimum of 40 hours per week.

On April 29, 2022, the District published a "request for cover letters and resumes" for this new position. This "request" was for interested candidates to submit a written interest in the position, with the salary to be left up for negotiation at a later date.

The request for cover letters and resumes noted that the position is to:

• Perform and coordinate Fire Prevention activities; organizing and coordinating community events, public education programs, and working collaboratively with Fire Department personnel to accomplish Fire Prevention Program objectives.

• Additional duties may include reception and phone coverage and other clerical duties as assigned. The majority of work may be performed in an office environment with trips to locations in the community for the purpose of performing public education activities and pre-incident planning.

• Assist the Fire Chief and others as assigned with administrative functions and special research.

The District received cover letters and resumes from no less than 7 candidates who were vying for this position; 1) Benjamin Scott Carlin, 2) Jacob Woolf, 3) Craig Bierbaum, 4) Sean Davis, 5) Mitchell Remig, 6) Gerald Hayes, and 7) John Aiello.

Apparently, that was 6 applications too many for them to think about, so the Fire Commissioners ever so quietly simply didn't actually hire anyone.

As previously reported here on FAA News, after sitting quietly hoping for the other 6 candidates to "go away," they are now back to their Fire Prevention Specialist hiring plan.

First, the Board adopted a Resolution fixing the salary range for the position of Fire Prevention Specialist. This Resolution states:

"The Board... is charged to provide prevention and extinguishment of fires and regulation of fire hazards within the Township... and ... the Board... finds a need for a Fire Prevention Specialist within the district in order to carry out the mandated charges as set forth above."

Before adopting this Resolution, Commissioner Dovid Bender stated, "I'm happy we are addressing this again." Chairman Yaakov Steinberg added, "this is very needed in the town."

Following completion of their previous task fixing the salary range for the position of Fire Prevention Specialist, the Commissioners have now again published a request for cover letters and resumes from interested candidates.

This proposal indicates that potential candidates are to have:

• Knowledge of requirements of the NJ Uniform Fire Code regulating use/occupancy of buildings.

• Knowledge of code requirements related to fire ratings of structural components, arrangement, sizing, protection of means of egress, and flame spread.

The following is also required:

• Appointees will be required to possess a current, valid Fire Inspector Certification issued by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

• Applicants who possess a higher-level certification as a Fire Official are considered to
have met the above certification requirement.

• Preference may be given to Residents of the Lakewood Township

This final stipulation raises eye brows.

The New Jersey Local Public Contracts Law (NJSA 40A:11-4.4) specifically provides that "the competitive contracting process shall... include all requirements deemed appropriate and necessary to allow for full and free competition between vendors; information necessary for potential vendors to submit a proposal."

In other words, the bidding process needs to be "fair and open to all."

Does "preference may be given to Residents of Lakewood Township" comply with this Statutory provision?? Hmm...

Why indeed are they so anxious for their Fire Prevention Specialist to be a resident of the Township? Moreover, their Administrator and Chief do not reside in the Township, so why now specifically are they expressing such an interest in their Fire Prevention Specialist being a resident of the Township? Ah... That's their whole hokus pokus charade way of ensuring that they can hire their favorite choice without needing to worry about any possible candidates getting in the way.

The Board of Fire Commissioners have an interesting habit of pulling such charades.

As previously reported here on FAA News, the Fire Commissioners also used legal loopholes to be able to retain Ian Goldman, Esq as attorney to the Fire District despite another attorney offering to take the job for less money.

Either way, to be considered for the Fire Prevention Specialist position, your cover letter and resume must be received no later than: Friday, July 14, 2023, at 2:00pm. They may be mailed or emailed to:
Yehuda Beer, Fire District Administrator
Lakewood Fire District No. 1
733 Cedar Bridge Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701

This year's fire district budget, which for the first time has topped $10 million, includes a salary of $191,732 for Chief Yahr, $155,000 for Administrator Yehuda Beer, and $110,000 for Deputy Administrator Steven Mulholland. Mr. Goldman's contract is for $195 per hour for his legal services. In 2022 the District paid Mr. Goldman close to $50,000 for his legal services, which was then billed at $155 per hour.

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