|Councilman Keith Loughlin|
In a recent "Letter to the Editor" found in a local newspaper, Westfield Fourth Ward Councilman Keith Loughlin expressed how "honored" he is to serve as Councilman. He states "We accomplished many tasks working together" referencing the paving of roads, the stoppage of a proposed cell tower, and "reducing the size of our municipal payroll by 20 percent while avoiding layoffs and preserving essential services." Loughlin does admit, "there is more work to be done." TFoTM couldn't agree more with Councilman Loughlin on that last statement.
What Councilman Loughlin does not tell the public is that the municipal payroll has been reduced by employees retiring and the Town Council not filling the positions held by those that have left. In some cases, the payroll has been reduced by cutting full-time positions in half to part-time. Only a politician can twist a negative into a positive and Loughlin does this by reminding us that he and his fellow council members have saved money "while avoiding layoffs and preserving essential services."
When reducing the payroll of public safety departments, the Town Council and Councilman Loughlin have not preserved essential services, they have reduced the effectiveness of those essential services. Anyone familiar with the staffing levels of the Westfield Police and Fire Departments knows that the "20%" reduction in payroll is a result of a combination of top tier salaried officers retiring and allowing the reduction of manpower not to be replenished.
In the case of the police department, today we have 10 less police officers. Most noticeably, the patrol division that is tasked with answering emergency calls and considered to be the front line force of any police department, has been hit hard.
The fire department has seen a reduction in manpower by the Town Council and Councilman Loughlin to the point that mutual aid from surrounding towns is heavily relied on these days to fight fires. This reduction in manpower has jeopardized essential services such as search and rescue, venting a structure to combat the fire, and dispatching "essential" manpower to the scene to properly fight a structure fire immediately without waiting for mutual aid.
Councilman Loughlin and some members of the Westfield Town Council have stated that Westfield's paid fire fighters are joined by volunteers to provide the necessary fire fighting services in Westfield, along with mutual aid services. More and more fires are burning longer causing more property damage as a result of the reduction in fire fighting manpower in Westfield.
A volunteer fire chief from a town (another NJ county) of similar size and demographics as Westfield offered this observation: "When a town relies on volunteers to fight a fire, property damage will skyrocket." "It has nothing to do with the knowledge and training of the volunteer, and everything to do with response time."
Councilman Loughlin will be kicking off his campaign for re-election with an event he is calling "Keith's Carnival" to be held on a Saturday this month. For an admission of $25 (kids free) there will be carnival games, food, prizes, entertainment, and more. The $25 "Admission" sounds like a campaign donation. It's no wonder fellow Westfield Councilman Frank Arena called campaigning "silly season." Perhaps Mayor Skibitsky can come in costume and pose as one of "Keith's Carnival Clowns."
I would much rather spend an extra $25 on my property tax bill to provide the "essential services" Councilman Loughlin and the Westfield Town Council state they have "preserved" when in fact, they have cut. The fact of the matter is, you can't put a price on "essential services" that save lives.