TRENTON, N.J. – By a unanimous vote today, the Assembly passed legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, to allow municipalities with a population under 5,000 to hire nonresident emergency management coordinators.
“Some small towns may not be able to fill the role with a qualified candidate from within their municipal borders,’ said Dunn, who represents seven towns with fewer than 5,000 residents in the 25th Legislative District, which includes 21 towns in Morris and Somerset counties.
“The person must have the experience and knowledge to protect the safety, health and resources of the residents and town,” continued Dunn. “They need to understand all the applicable laws, work well with emergency responders and effectively respond to disasters. It’s a tall order.”
Under current New Jersey law, municipal emergency management coordinators must be municipal residents unless the municipality participates in a shared service agreement. Dunn’s bill (A1057) allows coordinators to be hired from other municipalities provided the town has fewer than 5,000 people and the applicant lives within the same county.
“State law needs to be more flexible so we can ensure municipalities can hire someone with the right skills to fill a critical role,” explained Dunn. “Just like the current pandemic we are experiencing; an unexpected disaster could strike at any time. We can prepare by having the right people in the right place at the right time.”
Municipal emergency management coordinators are responsible for planning, activating and coordinating emergency operations within the municipality. They proclaim states of local disaster emergencies and work with municipal, county, state and federal agencies, as well local police, fire and rescue squads.
The Senate passed a companion bill (S551) in November. It now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.