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Fire District Elections Set for Feb. 17 in Four Townships

Fire District Elections Set for Feb. 17 in Four Townships

By Vince Conti

Fire Truck Stock Image
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Cape May County’s four townships will host fire district elections on Saturday, Feb. 17. A total of 14 fire districts will ask voters to approve a combined $8.8 million in taxes to support their 2024 budgets.

Fire district balloting is concerned with the election of fire commissioners, approval or disapproval of annual budgets, including the associated tax levy, and, where applicable, approval or disapproval of ballot questions that usually involve expenditures for equipment. In most cases the amount of the budget and the amount of the tax levy are the same.

The elections are held in February separate from municipal and state elections; the result is often a small turnout. In the 2023 elections in Dennis Township, none of the three districts saw 100 ballots cast. Even in more populous Middle Township, only the Court House district had more than 100 voters cast ballots. Lower Township, the county municipality with the highest population, saw between 100 and 300 ballots cast in each of its four fire districts.

This year the ballots for fire commission posts are without contention except in one instance.

In Middle Township’s Fire District #2, three individuals are vying for one commission seat. The current commissioner, Jennifer Sill, is attempting to hold off challenges from Kirby Stiltner Jr. and Michael J. Voll. Voll served as Middle Township mayor for 16 of his 18 years on the township’s governing body.

The candidates, budgets with tax levies and ballot questions are as follows:

Dennis Township

Fire District #1 – Two commission seats have two incumbents seeking reelection – Jesse Gery and Donald Tozer. The amount to be raised by taxes in the district is $456,000. In addition, the ballot asks voters for authorization for an expenditure not to exceed $100,000 for federally mandated 700 MHZ radios.

Fire District #2 – There is one open seat on the commission, with only one candidate, the incumbent, Robert McClure. The amount to be raised by taxation is $374,597. A ballot question asks voters to authorize an amount not to exceed $800,000 for fire apparatus with accessories to be added to the 2025 capital budget.

Fire District #3 – Two candidates, incumbents Tami Kern and Joshua Pantelione, are running for full three-year terms. A two-year unexpired term is on the ballot, with newcomer Samantha King as the only candidate. The voters are asked to approve a tax levy of $199,260.

Lower Township

Fire District #1 – Two candidates, Dale Gentek and Linda Brannon, both incumbents, seek reelection. The 2024 budget up for approval is $653,613, with a tax levy of $611,200.

Fire District #2 – Two incumbents are seeking reelection, George A. Barger Jr. and Lewis H. Conley Jr. The budget before the voters is $1,376,931, with $1,056,685 to be raised by taxation.

Fire District #3 – Two incumbents are seeking reelection, Gary Douglass Sr. and Dennis Robertson Sr. The budget up for approval is $1,016,397, with $879,641 to be raised by taxes.

Middle Township

Fire District #1 – Two candidates are running for the two open seats on the commission, Keith Arenberg, an incumbent, and Craig Mericle, a lieutenant in the fire company, who would be new to the commission. The tax levy up for approval is $1,471,006.

Fire District #2 – Three candidates are seeking one commission seat, with Sill trying to hold off challenges from Stiltner and Voll. The tax levy up for approval is $812,315. The ballot also contains a separate question: The district seeks voter approval to spend up to $1.7 million for a new fire truck.

Fire District #3 – Two incumbents seek reelection, Paul Fritsch and Bill Mulligan. The tax levy up for approval is $574,875.

Fire District #4 – Two incumbents seek reelection, Thomas Campbell and Robert Goodheart. The tax levy up for approval is $284,483.

Upper Township

Fire District #1 – One open commission seat has incumbent Donna Diefenderfer seeking reelection. The tax levy before the voters is $107,800.

Fire District #2 – Two incumbents, W. Scott Mauger and William J. Wentz, seek reelection to the two open seats on the commission. The budget for 2024 is proposed at $591,800 with $544,300 to be raised by taxes.

Fire District #3 – Two incumbents, Kurt Austin and Sean Whelan, seek reelection to the two open seats on the commission. The tax levy for 2024 would be $763,500. The voters are also asked to authorize the expenditure of $1,250,000 for a fire apparatus with accessories. In a separate question, the district also seeks approval for $77,000 for self-contained breathing apparatus. If either or both of the questions are approved, the amounts would be added to the 2025 capital plan.

Fire District #4 – Two incumbents, Rich Stevens and Charles Webb, are unopposed for reelection. The budget before the voters is $633,756, with $624,506 to be raised by taxation.

Contact the author, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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