Fulop shakes up Jersey City firefighting structure

JERSEY CITY – The mayor of Jersey City continues to make changes locally that also may draw attention statewide.

Mayor Steve Fulop announced Wednesday a restructuring of the fire department that he said would significantly cut overtime but keep more firefighters on duty.

“Our goal is to significantly cut overtime while also adding more companies weekly to increase fire protection,” Fulop said in a release. “We are reorganizing the command structure to redeploy personnel to enhance public safety, increase efficiency and reduce costs.” 

The Fire Department in New Jersey’s second largest city has depleted its budgeted overtime, roughly $2.6 million, due to inefficient staffing, particularly at the captain rank, Fulop said. Under the reorganization, the city anticipates savings of between $750,000 and $1 million. 

“The union will not like these changes,” Fulop said.  “We understand that, but our focus is the safety of our residents and the impact on the taxpayers.”  

Under the plan, additional fire captains will be on all four of the department’s tours, reducing the need for overtime at the captain rank, according to the administration. Additionally, four battalion chiefs will serve as safety officers – a position previously staffed at the captain rank.   

The measures the first-term mayor is undertaking now – cutting costs, putting more personnel on the streets – will be seen by pundits in the context of future, statewide campaigns, as Democrats confer among themselves as to who can take a shot at a gubernatorial bid in four more years, assuming Gov. Chris Christie – holding a large margin in polls – wins re-election next month.

Fulop already is seen as an up-and-comer in some circles, having won a key mayor’s race despite President Obama publicly supporting his opponent.

Fulop shakes up Jersey City firefighting structure