Berkeley Heights Township Council Opposes State Legislation on EMS Delivery

Councilman Craig Pastore (left) and Mayor Joe Bruno participate in a discussion during Tuesday night's township council meeting.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights Township Council formally stated its opposition to state legislation that revises the requirements for emergency medical services delivery at Tuesday evening's regular meeting..

The council passed a resolution opposing Senate bill S-818 and Assembly bill A-2095, because the bills “will impose unnecessary and burdensome regulatory and financial burdens upon volunteer first aid squads already understaffed and underfunded.”

The resolution says that the Emergency Medical Technician Training Fund is a dedicated, non-lapsing, revolving fund, established to reimburse any entity which is certified by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services to provide training and testing for volunteer ambulance, first aid and rescue squad personnel who are seeking EMT certification and/or recertification.

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The legislation would replace the Emergency Medical Technician Training Fund with the Emergency Medical Services Training Fund and permit the use of the fund by individuals and agencies other than for volunteer ambulance, first aid and rescue squad personnel. The legislation also would remove the supervision and control of volunteer first aid squads from their respective municipalities to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.

“We wind up taking responsibility away from the towns to be in charge of these rescue squads and put it with the state,” said Councilman Tom Pirone. “It’s an undue hardship on these towns.”

Mayor Joe Bruno said the legislation would put an undue burden on rescue squads and inevitably put them out of business.

“We would also have to have two trained EMTs on every call, and right now it’s one,” Bruno said. “Right now our rescue squad couldn’t go out. We’d be paying another professional rescue squad to do it.”

The resolution has been endorsed by the New Jersey League of Municipalities and volunteer rescue squads from around the state. The resolution will now be sent to Governor Chris Christie, State Senator Tom Kean, Jr., Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad, the Health and Senior Services Committees of the Senate and the Assembly, and the Senate Health Services and Senior Services Committee.

In other business, council members:

  • Briefly brought up a discussion they had during the earlier executive session on the renewal of the lease of Mt. Carmel for use by the senior citizens.  Bruno said the council will “make every attempt to come up with a fair and equitable offer to Mt. Carmel to keep our seniors at that location.” Bruno said that proposal will be done within a week.
  • Approved a first reading of an ordinance to revise the minimum side yard and rear yard setback regulations for accessory buildings or structures in the single family residential zone districts. The minimum required side yard and rear yard setback for an accessory building or structure will be increased by one foot for every one foot of building height of the accessory building greater than 15 feet in height. A public hearing will be held at the next township council meeting.
  • Approved a contract for animal control services for a three-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2013 with St. Hubert’s Giralda, a non-profit corporation in Madison.  The contract is for a base price of $40,308. Councilman Ed Delia asked if the township has shopped around for a better price, and Mayor Joe Bruno said that St. Hubert’s is the only organization north of Trenton that offers no-kill animal control services.
  • Conducted the first reading on an ordinance to increase the parking rates in municipal parking lots from $250 to $285 for Berkeley Heights residents and taxpayers. Delia said he isn’t in favor of raising the rates, but Bruno said the township has not raised parking fees since 2007.

    “We have a finite commodity and a three-year waiting list for people to park there,” Bruno said. “We did a survey and we are underneath where neighboring towns are.”

    He added that if the ordinance is approved, he will recommend that the back part of the municipal parking lot be paved. “People can park there now, but they don’t because it’s gravel. They don’t realize they can.”
  • Former Mayor Bob Woodruff was appointed to the council seat vacated by Bruno when he was elected mayor.
  • Captain Bill Schultz of the Berkeley Height Rescue Squad gave an overview of what the squad is doing and its goals for the new year. Bruno commended him on the addition of cadets from the high school to its volunteer base. 

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