Siren important to public health

On March 14 there was a meeting in Allentown regarding the emergency siren in town. I am a member of the community who is concerned about this issue and have had the experience of living on South Main Street not far from the siren.

Several issues have been raised from the meeting that night. One is the importance of the siren to alert the volunteers of the Allentown First Aid Squad and the Hope Fire Company. Another is the lack of respect that was shown by Allentown Mayor Stuart Fierstein toward the members of these organizations.

Mayor Fierstein has reported that the siren is 50 percent greater than the maximum state standard of 80 decibels and that it is a potential safety hazard for residents who could have their hearing impaired (although the borough has not received any reports from residents concerned about hearing loss).

Councilman Peter Pantages was quoted as saying that the siren is a public health issue. I would like to ask Mr. Fierstein and Mr. Pantages, what seems to be a more important public health issue?

Is the health issue the fact that if there is an accident or emergency between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., we have to rely on beepers to alert members without interference in the area? Or, is it a health issue that the siren is a danger to our hearing?

I believe we all know that beepers are not 100 percent reliable and the siren may get the extra volunteers needed in an emergency. Do we have to wait until a tragedy happens to decide that the siren is an integral part of keeping and helping our community remain safe?

Volunteers representing the Allentown First Aid Squad and Hope Fire Company came to the public meeting and respectfully made their comments about the need of the siren to be used. They were able to speak to the mayor about the situation and during the time that they spoke, the mayor showed no emotion and hardly looked up to acknowledge them.

As we begin to welcome more people, I hope not to show them the lack of respect the mayor appears to have for our volunteers and community. It would be nice as we grow to show them the real good nature, hard work and sense of strength between the residents, public officials, businesses and volunteers of our Allentown First Aid Squad and Hope Fire Company.

Rob Rittenhouse

Upper Freehold Township

Coverage appreciated

Thank you for your excellent reporting on the tax problems that face Roosevelt. Your article and editorial in the March 2 issue of the Examiner were direct and to the point.

I wrote to Assemblyman Joseph Malone and included a copy of your March 2 editorial. I am pleased to write that, as a result, Assemblyman Malone called me and assured me that he is well aware of our problem and is working toward finding relief for our community.

Continue your excellent coverage.

Helen Barth

Roosevelt

Something is wrong with this school picture

I urge all residents of Millstone Township to write letters to Assemblymen Mel Cottrell and Joe Malone and to state Sen. Robert Singer asking them to use their influence on behalf of Millstone Township to obtain more school aid funds in order to avoid a potential school budget crisis.

Millstone Township’s K-8 school system is still experiencing explosive enrollment and the number of students that we are sending to Allentown High School is also on a rapid rise. We are the smallest part of our legislators’ constituency and we continually do not get the attention and financial support from the state that we deserve.

The time to make more noise is long overdue. The mail addresses can be obtained from the New Jersey Legislature web site: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us. It is interesting to note that none of the three has an e-mail address.

Although I am not critical of our school budget or that of Allentown High School, I am concerned with the high ratio of fixed cost to variable cost in both budgets. Is there some structural flaw in the way that schools are managed? Perhaps this requires greater examination and exploration of ways to correct it.

The cost of medical benefits was one element mentioned by our school administrators. Perhaps our benefits are too liberal compared to private industry. In an attempt to control costs, the company I worked for instituted a fixed dollar amount for fringe benefits. The employee could choose from an a la carte menu of benefits.

If an employee chose a very liberal medical plan, then the employee contributed any amount that exceeded the amount allocated for health care. What I am saying should not be interpreted as advocating depriving our school staff of health-care benefits.

I am only saying that the reality is that most situations require financial tradeoffs that have to be made. Most employees in my company went from fee-for-service to managed care. They made a financial tradeoff.

Another example from private industry is the increasing use of temporary or contract help instead of permanent employees. This practice allows companies to better manage fixed costs. Contract help can be easily let go when not needed. They receive no fringe benefits which is a big fixed cost. In turn they receive a higher hourly rate, but the employer still saves money because the savings in fringe benefits, social security taxes, etc. is still greater than the rate paid. This practice is done for many professionals. Perhaps it should be done for teaching staff.

Finally, the Allentown High School administration has known for some time that they were going to lose the tuition revenue from Plumsted Township. They should have been taking steps to reduce their fixed costs. Now we are faced with an interesting dilemma.

When enrollment goes up, tuition goes up and our school taxes increase. When enrollment goes down, tuition still goes up and our school taxes increase. Something is wrong with this picture.

Gregory Cinque

Millstone

Let’s work together to find an answer for siren

The officers and members of the Allentown First Aid Squad want the public to know how important we believe the use of an emergency alerting siren is. Our radio pagers are a very effective first line of communication to alert our members of an emergency.

Pagers are not foolproof. Batteries go dead; we don’t carry our pagers in the swimming pool or the shower. The pager can’t be heard when you use a lawn mower. Dispatchers do make mistakes.

What happens if during one of these times, your mother has a heart attack or your child chokes or has an asthma attack?

What if your house catches fire or you are involved in a serious car accident? You depend on us and expect we will be there in your time of need.

We depend on the siren as a back-up to ensure we hear your call for help. At the same time, we understand and agree something has to be done about the current siren.

Late last year, in meetings with representatives of the Allentown Borough Council, Upper Freehold Township, Hope Fire Company and Allentown First Aid Squad, various options were considered. Purchasing a new siren with a lower decibel rating and/or finding a new location for the siren were discussed.

Allentown Mayor Stuart Fierstein agreed to investigate these options. The mayor further agreed to continue use of the current siren until a suitable alternative could be found.

To date, nothing has been done except to terminate the use of the siren. This is why we decided to go public with the issue by attending a Borough Council meeting.

Five people representing the first aid squad and fire department, with a combined total of more than 125 years of service to the community, spoke on the subject. We were totally ignored.

The mayor offered no comment or explanation as to why alternatives were not explored; in fact, he wouldn’t even look at us when we spoke.

We deserve better treatment and respect from our elected officials. We took our time to get this information on the record because we take seriously our duty to protect the lives and property of the community we serve.

An emergency siren has served this community for more than 50 years. We know the use of the siren increases the number of members responding to emergencies.

Over 90 percent of the area first aid squads and fire departments surveyed still rely on sirens to alert volunteers. The current siren needs to be replaced or relocated. We are asking the residents to help make this happen.

As it stands now the mayor is ready to "throw the baby out with the bath water." Please join us in our efforts to get our elected officials to find a solution that addresses both public safety and "nuisance" issues. Your life may depend on it.

Abigail R. Smith

President

Ruth Bertagni

Captain

Allentown First Aid Squad

Allentown

Let’s think about the future of recreation

Is Millstone an environmentally concerned community? We have a rural beauty desired by many. We have "open space" in 13 neighborhoods zoned R-130. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well, let’s think for a moment.

Exactly what does "R-130 Open Space" mean? R-130 Open Space means the township owns the land. They can use it in many ways. The township can construct permanent structures, stadium lights and recreation facilities, as well as municipal buildings and stations. Does this sound like an environmentally concerned community at the present, let alone the future?

I urge all residents of Millstone Township to think of what the future holds for us with the plans that are now implemented. I call this planning the "Band-Aid technique" or a "quick fix." Things that are properly planned endure the test of time. However, they need great care and nurturing during the planning stages. Accordingly, the benefits are not only seen today, but will have a positive lasting effect.

The Recreation Committee is in the process of acquiring three of the 13 open-space parcels of land for recreation facilities. There are 10 other parcels of land that can still be consumed.

By doing this, the Recreation Commit-tee is taking away our rural community piece by piece. If you would like the current trend to change and desire a township that is truly an environmentally concerned community, please make the Township Committee aware of your views. Central-ized recreation is the best way to preserve our rural community.

Maria Clement

Millstone

Neighbors step up to the plate for Little League

The Millstone-Roosevelt Little League would have had difficulties this year in scheduling practice times for our children. This was due to the unavailability of most of the practice fields we used in the past.

Fortunately, the Black Bear Lake Day Camp and the Clarksburg Inn of Millstone Township generously donated the use of their baseball fields when they heard of our problem.

Our sincere thanks to these two establishments for their generosity. It’s great to know that one can still rely on neighbors for help.

Pete Hum

MRLL President

Millstone

Let’s think about the future of recreation

Is Millstone an environmentally concerned community? We have a rural beauty desired by many. We have "open space" in 13 neighborhoods zoned R-130. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well, let’s think for a moment.

Exactly what does "R-130 Open Space" mean? R-130 Open Space means the township owns the land. They can use it in many ways. The township can construct permanent structures, stadium lights and recreation facilities, as well as municipal buildings and stations. Does this sound like an environmentally concerned community at the present, let alone the future?

I urge all residents of Millstone Township to think of what the future holds for us with the plans that are now implemented. I call this planning the "Band-Aid technique" or a "quick fix." Things that are properly planned endure the test of time. However, they need great care and nurturing during the planning stages. Accordingly, the benefits are not only seen today, but will have a positive lasting effect.

The Recreation Committee is in the process of acquiring three of the 13 open-space parcels of land for recreation facilities. There are 10 other parcels of land that can still be consumed.

By doing this, the Recreation Commit-tee is taking away our rural community piece by piece. If you would like the current trend to change and desire a township that is truly an environmentally concerned community, please make the Township Committee aware of your views. Central-ized recreation is the best way to preserve our rural community.

Maria Clement

Millstone

Neighbors step up to the plate for Little League

The Millstone-Roosevelt Little League would have had difficulties this year in scheduling practice times for our children. This was due to the unavailability of most of the practice fields we used in the past.

Fortunately, the Black Bear Lake Day Camp and the Clarksburg Inn of Millstone Township generously donated the use of their baseball fields when they heard of our problem.

Our sincere thanks to these two establishments for their generosity. It’s great to know that one can still rely on neighbors for help.

Pete Hum

MRLL President

Millstone

Reliance on property taxes

will hit homeowners hard

I

t’s been some time since taxpayers in Millstone Township have seen a significant one-year hike in the local school tax rate, but that good news streak will end this year.

The Millstone Board of Education’s proposed budget for 2000-01 carries a 14-cent increase, and there doesn’t seem to be too much the board can do about the situation.

To the owner of a home assessed at $300,000, a 14-cent increase will mean an additional $420 in school taxes to be paid in 2000-01.

However, residents who may be planning to complain to the board and demand that the new budget be thrown out need to know they’re not likely to see much difference if the budget is redone, no matter how meticulously.

According to school officials, Millstone is to receive $4.38 million in state aid this year, and while that’s up from a year ago, it’s not nearly what the board was counting on.

According to district administrators, under the formula used to derive entitle-ments in previous years, Millstone should have received $5.15 million for 2000-2001.

However, they say a new state funding program has decreed that much of that money would be better spent elsewhere and awarded it to districts with greater financial needs.

Board members say there is only so much they can do to cut spending in the budget. Almost 90 percent of the budget is allocated for fixed costs — expenses over which the board has no real control, like tuition paid to Allentown High School and staff health benefits.

Board members say they have cut costs in the remaining portion of the budget, the discretionary costs, spending less on new computers and other items than in the current year.

Millstone residents don’t have to be happy about a 14-cent tax hike, but they will have to pay it. Residents should know that if they vote down the budget on April 18, it will be sent to the Township Committee for review.

The governing body will either make recommendations for reductions or negotiate with the board to arrive at an amount to be cut. Typically, these cuts result in a token amount that may lower the projected increase by 1 or 2 cents.

This is not an endorsement of the Mill-stone budget, just a statement of fact that acknowledges New Jersey’s heavy re-liance on property taxes to fund the operation of our schools.

Residents with complaints about how the Garden State’s schools are funded would be well-served to make their case to their legislators. It is only when the breaking point is finally reached that the people in Trenton will begin to pay attention.