Holmdel Fire Dept. Chief Tom Savage Resigns
Savage acted as a liaison between the township's two companies, and an advocate for their needs
Township Fire Dept. Chief Tom Savage resigned today at Town Hall.
Interim Business Administrator Ray Wilson said that Savage turned in his chief's vehicle and related equipment and paperwork on August 3, 2011.
Wilson said Savage voluntarily resigned "for personal reasons."
Patch tried to reach Savage through his cellphone for comment, but was told by someone who answered that he was not at home.
Wilson said Savage, a respected firefighter, was involved in all matters concerning fire safety in the township, and worked as a liaison between Fire Company Number One, on Main Street, and Fire Company Number Two, on Centerville, and the township administration.
"He had daily interaction with different things," said Wilson. "All the purchasing for the Fire Dept. came through Tom into an office here. We provided secretarial help for mailings. Requisitions would come thorugh our regular purchasing procedures."
"Tom and I have had talks before," said Wilson. "It’s a very hard position." In addition to his Holmdel duties, Savage is also a trustee of Holmdel Fire and Rescue Company Number Two on Centerville Road, the Colts Neck Fire Department, and a counselor at a school for troubled kids.
Savage was Holmdel Township's first Department Chief, appointed in 2007. His position is unpaid.
Deputy Mayor Serena DiMaso said the Township Committee will discuss his replacement in executive session, closed to the public, at their next meeting on August 18. The township ordinance can allow for alternating company chiefs to serve as the department chief, she said.
The township is divided into two parts for fire coverage purposes, each served by a township volunteer fire company. The company chiefs have authority at fire scenes.
DiMaso said she was not surprised he resigned as his two-year appointment was coming to a close in 2012. "I know it’s a strain on any person, and as a volunteer he has the responsibility of an employee, but no pay," she said. "He did as good a job as anyone could do, and I would like to recognize him in some way. He dedicated an awful lot of time to the township."
According to Chief John Boyle Sr. of the Centerville Road squad, Savage had a "thankless position."
"He's been fighting to get stuff done and hasn't felt like he's gotten cooperation," said Boyle. "He feels safety concerns are not being discussed."
Boyle said that Savage was having trouble getting an air compressor up and running in the middle of town. That he was frustrated by the freeze on new members at the Centerville station. And that Savage was dissatisfied that the township did not provide the matching funds for the fire company's recent gear and equipment purchase, which meant the firefighting volunteers had to go door to door to solicit donations.
"The gear was a big issue, and that bothered him a lot," said Boyle. "He didn’t think it was the firefighters' job to do that."
But Committeewoman DiMaso, who serves on the Public Safety sub-committee, said she was not aware that his frustration was so intense. The air compressor project is progressing, she said, but is held up because a purchase must be made. The township contributed $52,000 of its $59,000 state-mandated limit to the fire department, she said, because of budget cutbacks. "Its not unusual for a fire company to raise its own funds," she said.
She noted that a vote to approve several new firefighters will be voted upon on August 18, and the township is setting aside $300,000 borrowed from the Monmouth County Improvement Agency towards a new fire truck for the department.
Boyle gave credit to Savage for beefing up the Centerville squad, from a handful of members to the present 33, and for responding to nearly half of the calls.
"This is going to be hard for us, without Tom. Tom worked as a buffer between the two stations, he was the overall chief."
A message left for Fire Company Number One Chief Doug Ziemba was not immediately returned. It was in 2008 that the Main Street company tried to oust newly-appointed Savage with a vote of no confidence. But since then their relationship had recovered, and Savage has worked with the company on their winning grant application for more equipment.