Aaron Hirsch is officially in the race for membership on the Lakewood Board of Fire Commissioners!

Mr. Hirsch submitted his petition to the Ocean County Clerk in time for yesterday's deadline, FAA News has confirmed.

Hirsch is running against Harrison Pfeffer who is seeking reelection.

Aaron Hirsch is currently very active at the local land use boards, speaking in support of traffic and pedestrian safety, and in vehement opposition to continued overdevelopment which leads to traffic congestion and higher taxes.

Importantly, if elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners, Mr. Hirsch will be in an even more key position to combat overdevelopment especially along narrow roadways with insufficient cul-de-sac bulbs, as he would be granted the keys to ensure that the Planning Board has the legal wherewithal to restrain developers from cramming in too many houses with no cul-de-sac bulb and too narrow roadways.

Despite claiming they have no involvement in the issue, the Fire Commissioners actually do hold a lot of power to stop some of the overdevelopment in the Township, and especially to ensure that wide cul-de-sacs are installed on long and narrow roads.

However, the current Board of Fire Commissioners blindly shirks this important duty.

Every Site Plan application that is submitted to the Planning Board gets forwarded to the Fire District for their review. According to the Planning Board, the Fire District is considered an "outside agency" which means that their approval is required before the Planning Board will allow any construction to actually occur. (Meaning, the Planning Board's own approval is contingent on the developer also receiving approval from the Fire District.)

However, instead of addressing this task appropriately, the Board of Fire Commissioners adopted their own Resolution which asserts that "The Fire Department’s review is a more pragmatic approach and the recommendations are given on a case by case basis to assure an efficient and effective delivery of fire suppression... Their review is couched in terms of recommendations. The Boards have the final judgment as to the requirements taking into consideration the Fire Department’s consult... The technical requirements remain the prerogative of the individual Board and its professionals, as well as the professionals of the applicant."

This is basically waving their hands up in the air in despair. It's also extremely inaccurate.

More specifically, the New Jersey Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS) clearly states that the Planning Board can only require a full-sized cul-de-sac bulb if the Board of Fire Commissioners states that one is necessary so fire trucks can properly turn around.

As previously reported here on FAA News, the Planning Board had denied an application on East 8th Street because the developer refused to install a cul-de-sac bulb; subsequently Judge Hodgson overturned this denial, saying that because the Board of Fire Commissioners had no concerns with the application as presented and they did not require a full-sized cul-de-sac bulb, and the Planning Board lacked jurisdiction to require it, as only the Fire Commissioners can override RSIS.

The current Board of Fire Commissioners did not require a full-sized cul-de-sac bulb despite that there already have been multiple big fires on the block, despite that the 2014 Board of Fire Commissioners did urge the Planning Board to require a turnaround.

Additionally, as previously reported here on FAA News, Attorney Adam Pfeffer has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Planning Board's denial of an application on Sunset Road and James Street. The denial was, in part, because the Board found that the proposed development would not secure safety from fire. One of Mr. Pfeffer's key arguments is that the Board of Fire Commissioners had no concerns with the application, so therefore the Planning Board had no right to be concerned with securing safety from fire.

Ironically, the member of the Board of Fire Commissioners who is running against Aaron Hirsch is Harrison Pfeffer, Adam's brother...

According to their mission statement:

The Lakewood Fire District is committed to providing fire services with the highest degree of efficacy. This includes the delivery of fire suppression, fire prevention and fire education services while at the same time exercising sound fiscal control and budgetary restraint.

The Fire Commissioners of the Lakewood Fire District are the translators of the Fire District’s overall commitment to excellence through the establishment as well as strict adherence to high standards of performance. This sets the tone and encourages those affiliated with the Fire District to continually strive to be the best in all aspects of service delivery by meeting or exceeding the expectations of the public they serve.

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 $110,000.00 for Deputy Administrator Steven Mulholland.

Ian Goldman took the reigns as counsel to the fire district after their long-time counsel, Jay Sendzik passed away, and his hourly rate has quickly risen.

Mr. Goldman's initial contract was for $145 an hour. After just a few months, in August 2021, the Fire Commissioners authorized a new contract for Mr. Goldman for $155 per hour. In 2022, the District paid Mr. Goldman approximately $50,000 for his legal services. Once this contract expired, the Commissioners received 3 proposals for the position, one of which was for $165 an hour, and Mr. Goldman's proposal for $195 an hour. As previously reported here on FAA News, the Commissioners - assisted by Goldman - used a crafty loophole to be able to reappoint Goldman despite receiving a cheaper proposal.

In March 2021, the Fire Commissioners hired a new clerk, Erin Belfiglio, with a 3 1/2 year contract starting at approximately $44,000 for the first year, and approximately a $1,000 annual raise thereafter. She is apparently doing a really great job because, as previously reported here on FAA News, after just a year and a half, the Commissioners approved an $11,000 annual raise for her!

As previously reported here on FAA News, after dropping this plan last year, the Commissioners are currently back in the process of hiring a Fire Prevention Specialist. Their annual budget appropriates $93,584 for this position (including health insurance benefits).

Likely the most glaring fiasco with the current Board came to light during the Township's high rise buildings proposal.

Earlier this year, Township officials reached out to the Board of Fire Commissioners and asked them to review their high rise proposal.

When the Board discussed the Township's proposal and request for a report on the proposal, Vice Chairman Larry Loigman stated that the report should include financial considerations.

Despite that the Board of Fire Commissioners is duly elected by the voters/taxpayers and funds their operations with taxpayer dollars, Chairman Yaakov Steinberg pushed back against including financial considerations in their report, stating that the Township only asked for any safety concerns they may have had!

Despite this pushback from Chairman Steinberg, as first reported here on FAA News, BOFC Vice Chairman Larry Loigman penned a letter very clearly warning the Township Committee that the need to the need to double the size of the career department, and acquire sufficient apparatus, training etc which would be required due to the construction of higher rise buildings than currently permitted in the Township, would increase our property taxes $6 million annually.

This exposure caused such a turmoil in the Township that, as previously reported here on FAA News, the rest of the Fire Commissioners were first made to sit down and write an apology letter to the Township Committee, assuring them that "one or two buildings" would not cause any major tax increase.

Then, because apparently this collusion was not sufficient, as previously reported here on FAA News, the rest of the Fire Commissioners also ceremonially admonished Mr. Loigman for "violating the Board's Code of Ethics by falsely representing the concerns of the Fire District as a whole!"

Each of the highlighted issues are even more troubling in light of the fact that Fire Commissioner Harrison Pfeffer is Adam's brother, and their attorney Attorney Ian Goldman Esq is Adam Pfeffer's partner!

A vote for Aaron Hirsch is a vote FOR transparency, honesty, and a much harder look at Site Plan applications to ensure that the Planning Board has the legal wherewithal to restrain developers from cramming in too many houses with no cul-de-sac bulb and too narrow roadways.

Election day is on Tuesday, November 7. Polls open 6am - 8pm.

If you are not yet registered to vote, you can take the first step now by registering here to vote. All it takes is one minute!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This election cycle truly has the potential to turn the tide around in town.

The Pfeffer - Goldman reign of Lakewood has got to end somehow.

Harrison Pfeffer's position on the Board of Fire Commissioners raises a number of eyebrows, including, why ever in the world did he join to begin with.

Now is the perfect opportunity to help put an end to this madness by electing Aaron Hirsch to fill the position!