VINELAND — City officials on Thursday swore in a longtime local volunteer firefighter to oversee the administrative duties of the city’s firefighting operations.
Robert Ternay’s appointment as director of fire came without the public discord between the municipality’s paid and volunteer firefighters that accompanied attempts by the previous city administration to fill the position.
Ternay can work with the two firefighting groups and “mend” any problems they may have, Mayor Ruben Bermudez said. Ternay has the support of both the city’s paid and volunteer firefighters, the mayor said.
“That’s what we want, people working together,” Bermudez said.
Ternay, 49, has been a local volunteer firefighter since 1990. He works as a senior internal auditor for South Jersey Industries.
Ternay, who will be paid $5,000 as director of fire, said he looks forward to working with all local firefighters.
He said he wants to complete revisions to the city’s Fire Department regulations. He also wants to develop a better system to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters, many of whom go on to work as paid city firefighters here.
“We need to develop the next generation of firefighters,” Ternay said.
Ternay takes a position held for the past several years by Robert Pagnini, who also serves as the city’s fire chief and emergency management coordinator.
Ternay will handle administrative issues, such as budgeting and personnel. Pagnini will handle the day-to-day operations of the Fire Department.
Pagnini said he looks forward to working with Ternay, calling him “an asset to the Fire Department.”
City Council on Tuesday approved Ternay’s nomination to the post by Bermudez. The 5-0 vote came without any public comment.
That was not the case in June 2010, when City Council was to vote on Mayor Robert Romano’s fire director nominee, volunteer firefighter Ryan Sbrana.
About 60 of the city’s paid and volunteer firefighters attended the meeting.
Some of the paid firefighters argued that the fire director’s position is not necessary and caused problems — in terms of who actually runs the Fire Department — over the years. Some of the volunteer firefighters said the position must be filled by a civilian to give them a voice within the Fire Department and to serve as a liaison with Pagnini.
City Council voted down Romano’s nominee and issued a stern warning to the paid and volunteer firefighters to work out their differences.
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