The Holmdel Fire and Rescue Company# 2 strongly opposes the current plan to merge both fire companies in Holmdel. This merger plan, due to be voted on March 19, has been rushed through without consulting any of the membership or leadership of HFRC#2.
This plan has come as a shock to us as we have not been involved in any of the planning process at all. We feel that this unilateral township decision disregards HFRC#2’s existence as an independent not for profit agency. The town has no ability to simply “shut us down” or “change our name.” Our members are happy to engage with the town in a dialogue to increase efficiency or change operating procedures, but to this day all actions have been one-sided and without our advice.
In the beginning of this year Doug Ziemba was appointed township chief without the Township Committee following established ordinances and procedures. To our knowledge no search committee was created, no other applications were received and no notification was given to HFRC#2 concerning the appointment of Chief Ziemba.
His appointment to chief was learned of by a member who happened to be at the township committee meeting where he was appointed. HFRC#2 has been and continues to follow the direction of Chief Ziemba, but we cannot understand how the decision was reached to make him chief. It should be noted that in 2008 a township committee investigation came to the conclusion that: 
"This committee is firmly of the opinion that there is a concerted effort, particularly by Chief [Doug] Ziemba, in fostering discontent and a form of mutiny against Chief Savage, which disrespect is particularly encouraged in the young firefighters," the report issued July 24 states. "They, in turn, have become part of an effort to attempt to destroy the fire department structure set up by the township ordinance."
This investigation was highly critical of Chief Ziemba’s abilities as a leader and fire officer. It continues to say that:
"The testimony of Chief Savage, Chief [Walter] Schaub, Deputy Chief Perrone and Lieutenant West referenced how efficiency and cooperation had improved lately," the report explained. "This committee notes the correlation of that improvement with the absence of Chief Ziemba's presence at fire scenes."
This report is but one instance in the past were Chief Ziemba’s cooperative abilities have been called into question and this is precisely why a full search and vetting should have been conducted prior to his appointment. The Bayshore Fire Chiefs Association, responsible for the coordination between fire companies in the bayshore region, voted Doug Ziemba and Holmdel Fire Company #1 out of the association.
This was due to Ziemba’s inability to work with other chiefs and his disregard for the organization’s leadership role in the region. However, HFRC#2 respects the current command structure and has followed all new directives that have come from Chief Ziemba’s office. As a company we are proud to serve the town of Holmdel and we continue to cooperate with Holmdel Fire Company #1. Still, there are a variety of reasons why having two independent fire companies under one command structure has benefitted the township residents for the past 6 years.
Holmdel Fire and Rescue Company #2 was created as a way to increase fire protection for residents while reducing costs and increasing quality. For most of the history of Holmdel, Holmdel Fire Company #1 has been incapable of providing fire protection services to the township’s north side.
Prior to 1993 Hazlet’s North Centerville Fire Company was the main provider of services to residents on the north side of town. From 1993 to 2009 the township contracted its fire protection services to Old Village Fire Company of Middletown for an approximate cost of $25,000 per year. In 1998 Holmdel constructed a fire department building on Centerville Road in order to improve response times and end the outsourcing of fire protection. Holmdel Fire Company #1 had 8 years to adequately man the station and improve response. They could not. When HFRC#2 was founded in 2006 one of its specific goals was to operate from an area of town in order to provide service to the north side of town instead of paying for an outside agency or relying on our one company that was ineffective at response to the north side.
Once HFRC#2 was able to get its training and membership programs in place the response times to the north side dramatically improved. This new recruitment of members and ability to staff the Centerville station was as a result of cultural changes from the previous fire company and stands as an example of how HFRC#2 is able to do a better job recruiting and retaining high quality firefighters. Today, the north side of Holmdel is one of the best protected areas due to the speedy and quality service that HFRC#2 provides.
HFRC#2 has since met all goals and today exists as the premier provider of fire protection services to the township of Holmdel. We feel that attempting to disregard 6 years of built culture and institutional memory for no benefit shows a disregard to the history of fire protection in Holmdel and the costs associated with fire department operations.
This merger would not save the taxpayers any money, as all firefighters and administrative officers are volunteers. No cost savings could be gained from merging any positions. The town pays for maintenance of vehicles and some other expenses but these will not be decreased by merging the companies unless the town plans to close one of the firehouses or sell off equipment. Additionally, changing the name of the company will incur significant upfront costs with regard to signage, uniforms, and vehicle lettering. Each of our members spends over $100 in uniforms, jackets, and other apparel that will have to be replaced. Will these costs be reimbursed?
HFRC#2 has historically saved the township money by electing to finance many upgrades and equipment purchases with fund drives and grants. In the past 6 years of operation the company has purchased its own air compressor to refill air bottles, numerous sets of turnout gear and other personal equipment, station upgrades, and many of the hand tools found on the fire apparatus.
Additionally, HFRC#2 was able to upgrade all of our air packs to state of the art models with a $130,000 FEMA grant. All of this was possible without township funding because of the strong culture of fund raising that this company has. Hundreds of hours are spent each year raising money and writing grants in order to use less township funding whenever possible. Questions also remain as how the town will cover debts accrued and still being paid off by HFRC#2. Will the town step in and take over all company debts? The federal grant was also issued specifically to HFRC#2 and is not transferable.
Without a clear benefit, why would the town wish to merge the companies or stop using our name? As a company we can see no benefit to ending the rich legacy that HFRC#2 has managed to build in the short time that we have been here. Ending this company will seriously hurt morale and serve only to increase the exodus of members due to low confidence in the current leadership of the Township Chief and Township Committee.
Competition between the companies has also been of great benefit. When we hear that the other company has increased their training in one area that motivates us to train in that area as well. Across the board having a friendly rivalry promotes a strong desire to be the best and protects against stagnation and falling into a rut. Having another company to compare with in town keeps everyone on their toes and highly motivated to succeed. More opinions are a good thing and having two companies to rely on provides for more reliability in case of problems with the leadership of any one organization. It also allows for a system of checks to ensure that everyone is staying honest and keeping the residents as their number one priority.
Many people may wonder why a name change or administrative merger really matters, but to those of us involved in this company since the start it matters quite a bit. We have built a company with its own identity, history, procedures, specialized equipment and training, and leadership style. To throw that away without any benefit at all seems to be a silly objective. This company was created specifically because the people of Holmdel could not rely on Holmdel Fire Company #1 to provide adequate service.
Today we have one of the best protected towns with some of the best trained and motivated firefighters. We would argue that having two companies has only helped the township of Holmdel. Since 2006 both companies have increased their training for extrication services, there has been an increase in fire ground and leadership training. Membership is higher than it has been for the past 10 years. Our equipment is newer and safer and our members are better experienced in its use. Numerous stories have been written about our success. Many questions still remain as to how this proposed merger ordinance will work and these concerns need to be answered.
Mike Simpson, the township head of emergency management even said,
“Holmdel 'finally' has a “real Fire Company, and one to be proud of.” 
We simply ask that any plans for merger or systemic change in the fire department be put on hold to allow for a proper review and discussion with all stake holders. HFRC#2 wishes to simply put a stop to the top down changes being made and speak about the benefits that we offer the town as an independent fire company.
Sincerely and Unanimously,
The Members of HFRC#2
Independent Newspaper http://ind.gmnews.com/news/2008-07-30/front_page/003.html
Irene - The Good, The Bad, and the Snugly.... Mike Simpson Holmdel Patch http://holmdel-hazlet.patch.com/blog_posts/irene-the-good-the-bad-and-the-snugly