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City of Gloucester City May 27 Council Agenda
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Firefighters & Supporters Pack Gloucester City Community Hall to Protest Layoffs

City budget meeting 008
PHOTO: A large crowd attended the May 27 Gloucester City Council meeting.

By Bill Cleary

GLOUCESTER CITY NJ-An estimated crowd of around 300 people, mostly local and out of town firefighters, their family members and their supporters, packed the Gloucester City Community Hall, on Nicholson Road Thursday night to voice their opposition to a proposed cutback in the local fire department. If there were any people who favored the reduction in force in lieu of raising taxes they soon disappeared or sat very quietly. 

The City council budget meeting was scheduled to start at 8 pm but because of the crowd, some of the firefighters from out of town arrived in buses, was delayed 15 minutes so more seating could be made available.

Layoff notices were handed out to 15 city employees earlier this month due to an estimated $1.3 million city budget deficit. The breakdown of the number shows there are 8 in the fire department, 1 in the police department, 1 in community development and 5 in the department of administration. Four of those five are part-time employees.

Gloucester City Administrator Jack Lipsett said, “The notices are just part of a process that must be followed. We are still meeting with union representatives trying to avert any layoffs in the fire and police department”.  Lipsett added that two officers in the fire department who are retiring soon will not be replaced.

The layoffs take effect July 1, 2010.

The biggest news coming out of Thursday’s meeting was the statement made by Dan Dobleman, a city volunteer firemen, who said that he and some other volunteers will resign their positions if the layoffs notices given to the 8 paid fire fighters are not rescinded. Mayor and council were relying on the volunteers to pick up the slack if the layoffs take effect.

Mayor Bill James and council have said the only way to make up the budget deficit was to raise taxes. His prepared statement read to the audience tonight which was posted  Monday on CNB can be found here. 

For the most part the crowd was orderly. Cheers followed each speaker after they finished reading their prepared statements. One woman was pushed in her wheel chair to the front so she could tell council how wonderful she has been treated by the fire department. Others told similar stories about how much they relied on the ambulance service to take them for treatments.  Many of the supporters said they would welcome the higher taxes if it would keep the fire department at its present manpower. 

At 10 pm tonight, when this reporter left for another assignment, the meeting was still going strong. A full report on the outcome will appear in the upcoming issue of the Gloucester City News. And some of the 90 minutes of video film taken at the meeting will appear on ClearysNoteBook on Friday afternoon.

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