Will Proposed Development Tax Emergency Services
If approved, will the development of the United Water property impact emergency services?
In her testimony before the Zoning Board on Aug.14, Hekemian's expert traffic engineer, Elizabeth "Betsy" Dolan of the firm Dolan & Dean Consulting Engineers LLC, testified that additional traffic generated by the proposed development, the levels of service and delay for the River Road, Cecchino Drive and the Madison Avenue intersections will not cause any change in service.
According to Dolan, her study determined that all approaches will operate at "acceptable levels of service or better with the addition of site traffic."
However, local emergency service officials agree that placing a 221 unit residential housing unit, a 70,500 sq. foot supermarket and a 4300 sq. ft. bank where nothing currently exists will not only increase traffic and change the character of that part of town, but increase the need for emergency services to that area of town, as well.
According to Police Chief Frank Papapietro, the northern sector of town where the development is proposed has always been considered the quieter sector, unlike the southern part of town where Shop Rite, the strip malls, and Brookchester and Dorchester put out far more calls for emergency services.
Increased traffic alone means increased calls for service to emergency services. Residents have seen how a car accident involving a pedestrian on River River, such as the one that involved a high school student this spring, brings out police, ambulance and in many cases, the fire department. Not only can one accident clog River Road, one of the town's main arteries and a familiar cut-through road for cars accessing and exiting Route 4, but it can involve many of the town's emergency resources. It also diverts traffic onto the local roads.
Below is a list of calls for service for the Police Dpt., Fire Dpt. and Ambulance Corp. (year-to-date) to give readers a baseline perspective in considering the potential increase in calls for service should Hekemian be granted the variances he is seeking for the proposed development.
- Police: 5192 calls for service
- Fire: 80 calls for service
- Ambulance: 592 calls for service
During the months that Dolan used for her traffic study, Sept. 2011; and Feb.1 to April 30, 2012 NMPD responded to 40 calls for service at the current Shop Rite location. These calls included ambulance assistance, disputes, hit and run accidents and shoplifiting.
There were 60 reported traffic accidents during the months of Dolan's study, some of which included pedestrians.
An increase in population will generally result in the rise of calls for emergency services. If the proposed 221 unit residential complex is approved, will this result in the need for additional police hires, firefighters and ambulance personnel? And what about the infrastructure of each building? Can they safely operate under the increased demands? And there is also the cost of upgrading and purchasing equipment.
Recently, the mayor and council agreed to the formation of a subcommittee to explore the expansion of the borough's firehouses that have structural concerns and need to be brought into compliance with the codes of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Also, within the next two years, Company 2 will have to replace their current tower ladder truck that is over 20 years old and is no longer in compliance with federal standards. Firefighters are required to sit seatbelted inside the truck, a feature that extends the length of the truck well past the limits of the firehouse engine room.
The Police Dpt. is also in dire need of space. Currently, police headquarters is not ADA compliant, lacks a juvenile holding area, has no secure court entrance to transport prisoners from holding cell to court, has no private area for domestic crime victims, prisoners have been secured to the lunch room table when there is no more room in the holding cell area, and there are no female facilities -- such as a restroom -- within police headquarters. Female prisoners need to be escorted to use the facilities in the public area of Borough Hall.
Additionally, if the proposed development is approved, an increase in population may translate into the need for the town to incease its headcount of emergency service workers.