Camden looks to cut firefighting costs after federal funding ends

David Madden
February 13, 2020 - 2:40 pm

CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A $2.4 million federal grant, which pays for more than two dozen firefighting positions in Camden, is set to expire in June. City officials are working on a contingency plan, but that would cut about half of those jobs.

A consolidation plan was submitted to the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) that would reduce overtime, cut the management structure, and leave a half-dozen firefighting positions unfilled. Twelve jobs would be lost out of the 196 that are currently budgeted. 

Unions representing those will be affected have met, insisting that they can’t handle fire protection like a typical run-of-the-mill business.

“Firefighters have to do more with less,” said IAFF Local 2578 president Samuel Munoz. “That’s where injuries happen — particularly catastrophic injuries — not only to firefighters but also limits the ability of firefighters to safely mitigate incidents.”

Camden Mayor Frank Moran counters that he had to put the plan together after rules for the grant changed to fund only new hires as opposed to retaining those already on the job. However, he stresses that basic services will not be affected.

“Physically, there are only six positions that are being affected that currently have a body in it,” he said, “and there are no frontline firefighters identified in this restructuring plan.”

The DCA has 30 days to accept the city’s proposal.

Unions are hoping the state may replace some of the money lost with the expiration of the federal grant. 

“We have some scheduled meetings with the governor’s office,” Munoz added. “We’re hopeful that the governor understands our plight here in Camden, and we can save and restore these critical supervisory positions as well as the positions that are being proposed for reduction in the fire prevention unit.”

Moran said the Murphy administration already gives Camden a great deal of money for its general fund budget, and he has to make that budget balance out now. But, he said discussions will continue among all parties involved.