WEST ORANGE, NJ - President of the West Orange First Aid Squad James Troisi stood before the Township Council and Administration on May 23 and stated his case to prolong the existence of his organization.
"More than three million patients, more than 28,000 personnel, and yet we at EMS remain the most misunderstood of all public services," Troisi said. “Seriously, who pays thousands of dollars for training, spends several months in school and then works for free dealing with injury, disease, suffering and misery? Volunteer EMT's have to be nuts."
Troisi concluded his comments by fighting for his organization and acknowledging its successes.
"We are a proud, non-profit charitable organization that has served this community admirably for half a century," Troisi said. "We will not be relegated back to a situation where men and women have to share a bunk room and a shower stall. We won't sit quietly at the kids table and be told what we can and cannot eat. Come October, we can celebrate 50 proud years of service that saved the residents and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, or we can dissolve. Fortunately or unfortunately for us, which it will be is in the hands of our elected officials."
This issue started approximately a year ago when WOFAS began billing without authorization from the administration, and the township, in a conference call that included Council President Susan McCartney and Councilman Joe Krakoviak, was advised by the Office of the Attorney General that the billing process should legally go out for local contract public bid.
WOFAS was advised by its legal counsel to refrain from submitting a bid, and the Superior Court resolved the matter by siding with the administration. Because this process is still in litigation, town administration and council members were limited on what they could say on the matter, but the council did, however, recognize and express their appreciation for the work of Troisi and WOFAS.
Councilman Joe Krakoviak reiterated his concerns during the township council meeting about the issue without initial regard about the litigation.
"I remain perplexed about, from all I know, why the administration appears to be trying to put one of the greatest things about living in West Orange basically out of business," Krakoviak said. "It's just a whole lot less expensive for us to use WOFAS as much as possible than the members of our fire department."
In a conversation with The Alternative Press, Council President Susan McCartney said, "The town did not take the West Orange First Aid Squad to court, and has no intention of dissolving WOFAS."
McCartney continued, "This is not a matter of using one instead of the other; it is a matter of who is able to respond first to an emergency."
There is a priority listing on how emergency calls are sent out from the Communication Center. The West Orange Fire Department was taking many of the calls because WOFAS was not able to provide coverage at times as a volunteer organization.
"One of the reasons WOFAS started third party billing was to hire others to have more availability," McCartney stated.
In response to TAP's request for comments Councilman Jerry Guarino expressed concern over Councilman Krakoviak choosing to comment on the WOFAS issue during the council meeting, despite advice from township attorney Ken Kayser that the issue is still in litigation and comments should not be made.
Guarino also noted, "WOFAS is not a totally volunteer squad. They have to have paid coverage. However, they have chosen not to participate in the RFP [Request for Proposal] as requested."
He added, "It does not cost more for the WOFD to respond to calls as the fire personnel is already on location and does not get additional pay for EMT duties."
Councilwoman Patty Spango, whose son is a member of WOFAS, recused herself from voting and public comment to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
Despite the current conundrum, it was apparent that the township council and administration had no desire to lose WOFAS as a long-time community partner.