It may have seemed like déjà vu.
Just a few weeks ago, four Kearny firefighters were elevated to the rank of captain and, last Tuesday, three more were promoted to the same rank.
Not that the Kearny Fire Department is expanding its supervisory roster. It’s rushing to fill slots as quickly as they are vacated via retirement.
Mayor Alberto Santos acknowledged the challenge, saying that, “There are a lot of retirements in the Police and Fire Departments. It’s getting harder and harder to play catch up.”
“These are tough and trying times,” said Fire Chief Steven Dyl. “We crunch the numbers and make things happen.” Dyl credited the town governing body for recognizing that, “public safety is paramount.” So those gaps in the ranks need to be filled, the chief said. Given the increasing number of veteran employees leaving, “we’re going to be a very young department in a very short time [so] we will need supervision.”
To that end, Michael Golon, Edward Ryan and David Auerbach were appointed as fire captains, effective May 2, each at $103,637 a year.
Michael Golon, 45, is the most senior of the three with 16 years under his belt. “Mike’s file is filled with training courses he’s taken,” Dyl said. “He brings a lot of knowledge and skills to us. He helped with the purchase of two fire apparatuses and he’s a member of our Technical Rescue Team.”
Golon was chosen Firefighter of the Year twice: He was recognized for a rescue made in 2005 at a Wilson Ave. fire and for saving the life of a man in Edison while off duty, Dyl said.
Golon and his wife Dawn have three sons, Sean, Matthew and Owen.
Ed Ryan, 40, has served with the KFD for the past decade, mostly with Fire Station 2 until his recent move to the South Kearny Fire Center.
Ryan is the recipient of a commendation for helping rescue a construction worker who was injured while on a barge at the Wittpenn Bridge replacement project job site.
Ryan, whose wife is Erin, has a brother, Robert, who serves as a captain with the West Orange Fire Department.
David Auerbach, 34, a 10- year employee of the KFD, is assigned to Fire Station 3. He’s a member of the department’s Swift Water Team and has a commendation for a CPR save.
Auerbach and his wife Jessica are the parents of three children, Dylan, Michael and Gabriella.
With these latest appointments, Dyl said that he will have a full complement of 25 fire captains – the maximum provided under the Fire Department’s Table of Organization.
“But by June 1,” he said, “we’ll end up with 22,” due to retirements scheduled between now and then.
Last Tuesday, the governing body accepted retirement applications submitted by Fire Capt. Michael J. Livolsi and Chief Inspector/Fire Official John F. Donovan, effective June 1. Livolsi is leaving after 25 years of service and will pocket $53,374 in terminal leave pay and unused vacation time while Donovan, who has worked 24 years but has 25 years of “pensionable service credit,” will collect $44,984 in terminal leave pay and unused vacation time.
And the Police Department is losing two of its longtime employees: Capt. Thomas C. Osborne is retiring June 1 after 27 years and 10 months with $69,735 in terminal leave and unused vacation and Det. Sgt. Robert Maguire goes May 1 with $53,277 in terminal leave and unused vacation.
There may be further reason for the pessimism voiced by the mayor and the fire chief about losing ground in efforts to maintain public safety protection levels, judging from a closed session “review” of the Tables of Organization for both the KFD and KPD by the governing body after the public portion of last week’s meeting.
Santos declined to provide specifics about the discussion except to say that the state monitor assigned to Kearny had offered some recommendations about the T.O. for each department and that these proposals were under “internal review” by the town in consultation with the unions representing Police and Fire Department employees.
Emike Omogbai, a spokesperson for the state Department of Community Affairs, said that members of the Division of Local Services “met with the [Kearny] administration to discuss ways in which the town could improve the functionality of its Police and Fire Departments.
“The Division provided guidance on staffing levels, utilization of staffing, and practices to address avoidable overtime. At this time, the Division cannot provide more detailed explanations of the recommendations, as some may affect negotiable items under the town’s collective bargaining agreements.”