Finance Board approves dissolution of Spring Lake Heights Fire District

TRENTON – The dissolution of the 22-year-old Spring Lake Heights Borough Fire District 1 was passed by the state Local Finance Board.

The borough will fund firefighting services through a line item in the budget, officials said.  But representatives of the fire company and board of fire commissioners said they believe service will suffer and as yet there is no working agreement with the borough going forward.

There also is a lawsuit in Monmouth County Superior Court to fight the move.

Mayor Frances Enright said she has a concern about the dissolution and agreement proceeding properly because as of this moment, she said, the town lacks a fully qualified chief financial officer. She and others pointed out how emotional and divisive this issue is for the town.

Assistant Fire Chief Jim Merriman said the District’s budget has passed every year in the last 10 years except for two occasions, and what is being done is removing the right of homeowners to decide the kind of service they want.

A representative of the Division of Local Government Services, Donald Huber, said the Finance Board’s sole area of authority here is to determine whether the borough is acting within its statutory requirements in its handling of the dissolution, and he said with one exception – the contract – he believes it is.

Merriman pleaded with the Finance Board to delay a decision until an agreement is reached. He said this would not be a delaying tactic, but would help the District possibly reach an agreement.

Yet Finance Board members, before voting, reiterated they have a narrow area of authority here.

The board provided a dissolution date of Dec. 31, and asked Huber to continue meeting with the parties to ensure an agreement is worked out.

In other matters:

* The board approved $30 million for Passaic County Improvement Authority for a renewable energy program that is in the request for proposal stage. Officials said they hope to receive bids within about 30 days. A combination of municipalities and schools would benefit from the solar panels, they said.

* The board approved an application for $19 million in a refunding bond ordinance that is related to the pending sale of Hoboken University Medical Center. If the pending sale to private ownership goes through, then the new owners will need access to those parking spaces, and that will necessitate a change from tax-exempt bonds to taxable bonds, officials said.

* There were several applications approved regarding tax appeal refunding notes:

Jersey City, $5.5 million; Newark, $5.93 million

Finance Board approves dissolution of Spring Lake Heights Fire District