BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The council voted to adopt an ordinance that would ask voters to decide if the township should provide a “Length of Service Award” program (LOSAP) for the Rescue Squad. The referendum will be on the November ballot.
Berkeley Heights does not offer the program, although most of its neighboring communities do – both in and out of Union County.
LOSAP is estimated to cost the township $23,000 the first year and $11,500 the second and subsequent years of the program. The complete copy of the ordinance can be found on page 37 of the July 23 agenda, here.
The council first heard a request for LOSAP for members of the Rescue Squad at its June 25 meeting, when Joe Savino, president of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad, asked the council to approve LOSAP for squad members who meet certain criteria. Each eligible volunteer member who meets the criteria will receive a maximum annual contribution of $1,150.
All active volunteer members shall be eligible to participate in the LOSAP as soon as they begin their active emergency services, and will be eligible to vest in the LOSAP when they have completed at least five emergency service in any emergency service organization in the state.
Members must earn 85 points a year to be eligible for an annual contribution.
The ordinance adopted by the council sets the criteria and maximum point value of each category. Those categories include:
· Riding Hours, 70 points maximum, with a minimum of 600-709 riding hours earning the member 40 points; from 710-800 hours 60 points and more than 800 hours 70 points.
· Responding to a backup call earns a member one point for every backup call response, with no maximum.
· Officer positions including: Chief; Deputy Chief; Vehicle Lieutenant; Training Lieutenant; Supplies and Equipment Lieutenant; President; Vice President; Treasurer, and Correspondence Secretary. A maximum of 10 points per year and will be awarded on a pro rata basis. Six months in a position will earn the officer five points.
· Trustees and Delegates can earn five points maximum.
· Attending Business /Training/Committee meetings will earn a member one point, with no maximum.
· Being a committee chairperson will earn members two points for leading a committee meeting or serving as committee chairperson;
· Participating in a Rescue Squad event will earn members one point per event, for a maximum of 15 points.
On May 7, Fire Department officers gave a presentation of their own on LOSAP and a stipend program for qualifying members of their department.
After Savino’s June 25 presentation, Kingsley suggested that if residents were asked to approve LOSAP for the Rescue Squad, they should also be asked to do so for the Fire Department, rather than go to the voters with the same question twice.
At the time, Adam Uanis, president of the Berkeley Heights Fire Department, said LOSAP was added as part of a benefits package but, if given a choice, the department would prefer to ask voters about both plans.
On July 23, Kingsley again said she wished both volunteer service members would be eligible for LOSAP, if it were to pass, but apparently the department did not change its mind.
The referendum question will read:
Shall the Township of Berkeley Heights establish a Length of Service Awards Program for the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad that serves the Township in accordance with the following terms and conditions:
A. The program Shall provide for annual contributions to a deferred income account for each active volunteer member that meets the eligibility criteria and in accordance with the schedule adopted by the Township of Berkeley Heights.
B. The proposed maximum annual contribution amount for a qualifying member is $1,150, which the township may increase from time to time based on increases in the Consumer Price Index, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40-!:14-185(f).
C. The estimated cost of the program for the first year of the program (2020), which includes credit for one prior year of qualifying service, is $23,000.
D. The estimated cost of the program for the second and subsequent years of the program (2021 and beyond), is $11,500.
The council unanimously approved the adoption of the ordinance.