What if Little Egg Harbor Had an Election and No One Came?
It happens almost every year on the third Saturday in February. A little known election in being held tomorrow in 79 towns throughout New Jersey. It the annual fire district elections, electing fire commissioners and levying taxes for equipment, buildings and fire fighter gear.
There are only 79 municipalities in the state with fire districts (out of 566), so there not much attention paid to this oddly timed balloting. Here in southern Ocean County, Little Egg Harbor is the only community with a fire district election tomorrow, February 20th.
There are three fire districts in Little Egg Harbor, and there is very poor turnout for the balloting even though hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are approved or denied annually on the third Saturday of February.
Just how bad is the turnout? Well in the NJ Legislative elections last November a total of 4,469 Little Egg Harbor voters cast ballots in the 9th Legislative District. The most recent election returns I could find for Little Egg Harbor's three fire districts was 2006, when just 131 voters turned out! That's a combined total for all three fire districts!
On top of the odd date, the snow birds down south and the coldest month of the year the fire district elections are NOT subject to the same uniform standards and oversight that other govern other elections in New Jersey.
The Boards of Fire Commissioners have total control of the election operation. And, you guessed it, they have a vested interest in the outcome.
The Commissioners decide how the ballot will be printed and who will staff the polling places. And unlike other elections in New Jersey, there are no state or county attorneys or judges standing by to mediate disputes.
There have been bills in the state legislature to hold the fire district elections on a day when other elections are held to cut costs, or by leaving budget approval to the local governing board. Fire district lobbyists have successfully held up these efforts.
Polls are open in Little Egg Harbor tomorrow (Saturday February 20th) from 2pm til 9pm. You must vote in the district where you live.
West Tuckerton Fire District in Little Egg Harbor (District 1) Operating budget to be voted on $339,406
+ West Tuckerton Volunteer Fire Company covers Route 9 in West Tuckerton, communities such as Cranberry Creek, Holly Lakes and Mystic Shores, Great Bay Boulevard, Radio Road south to Mathistown Road, and Route 539 to Warren Grove. West Tuckerton splits coverage of Route 539 to Warren Grove with Parkertown Volunteer Fire Company, which covers the opposite side of Route 539.
+ West Tuckerton Fire District 1 has two three-year terms up for election. The candidates include two incumbents, Alfred W. Bailey of Marigold Lane and Lawrence E. Burd of Nugentown Road. Also vying for the two seats are Daniel Curley of Oak Leaf Avenue, Tom Bramhall of Gifford Road and Robert Shaninian of Springate Court.
+ Little Egg Harbor Fire District 1 voting is at the West Tuckerton Fire House at 505 Route 9.
Mystic Island Fire District in Little Egg Harbor (District 2) Operating budget to be voted on $430,900
+ Mystic Island Volunteer Fire Company covers Mystic Island, Osborn Island, and Radio Road south of Mathistown Road.
+ Mystic Island Fire District has two, three-year seats up for election on the board of fire commissioners. Two candidates are running unopposed.
Incumbent William K. Maguire of Crystalbrook Drive is running for his third term. Michael Caronia of Sherwood Drive, who previously served on the board, is returning to the board and running for his third term.
+ Little Egg Harbor Fire District 2 voting is at the Mystic Islands Fire House at 827 Radio Road.
Parkertown Fire District in Little Egg Harbor (District 3) Operating Budget to be voted on $285,913
+ Parkertown Volunteer Fire Company covers Parkertown, Route 9 south to Tuckerton and north to Eagleswood, Sea Oaks and shares Route 539 and Warren Grove coverage with West Tuckerton, with West Tuckerton covering one side of Route 539 and Parkertown covering the opposite side.
+ Two incumbents are running unopposed. Both George Garbaravage of Frog Pond Road and John J. Pisano Jr. of Birchwood Drive are running for a third term.
+ Little Egg Habor Fire District 3 voting is at the Parkertown Fire House, 830 Railroad Avenue in the Parkertown section of Little Egg Harbor.