EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In a startling move for most township residents, the East Brunswick Rescue Squad has ceased operations as of April 1, 2019. The move follows an ongoing struggle between the township and the rescue squad over the past several years over mismanagement and non-payment of debts, leaving many unanswered questions.
In a statement issued by the Mayor’s Office, Town Council and Department of Public Safety yesterday, the employees and volunteers were praised for their work and dedication to the community which they have served: "Since 1952, the East Brunswick Rescue Squad has provided Emergency Medical Services to the Township of East Brunswick. The Township was notified at the end of March 2019 that after 67 years of volunteer service, the East Brunswick Rescue Squad would no longer be able to provide Emergency Medical Service to the Township. In preparation of the Squad's closure, the Township extended the contract of Atlantic Ambulance through St Peter's University Hospital, who was already providing daytime Emergency Medical Services. By extending their coverage, the residents and visitors of East Brunswick will have continued emergency medical coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Mayor’s Office, Town Council and Department of Public Safety would like to take this opportunity to thank the past and present men and women of the East Brunswick Rescue Squad for their countless hours, commitment and sincere dedication to serving the residents, employees and visitors of East Brunswick."
Township Administrator Joe Criscuolo assured residents that full coverage would be provided to the residents of East Brunswick as the township transitions to a new service. A proposal was sent out to prosepctive bidders for the contract about two weeks ago. Respondents have until April 15 to place a bid for the work.
"There is nothing political on our side," said Criscuolo. The Rescue Squad consists of primarily paid members and some volunteers, though the proportions in the past were different. The Rescue Squad is different fom the East Brunswick Fire Department which is composed almost completely of volunteers and the East Brunswick Police Department which is a full-time, paid agency of the township. He stated that the Rescue Squad is compensated by insurance companies which pay for the services they provide.
Over the past two years, the Township has asked the Squad to provide financial records. The records were never received. The balance of a loan for equipment totalling $180,000 has not been repaid to East Bunswick, said Criscuolo. The Squad has owed the township $106,000 for more than two years, prompting East Brunswick to ask for a financial statement. The Township sued the Rescue Squad in 2018.
As reported on mycentraljersey.com, the squad also has failed to file federal income tax returns over the last few years. The last tax return was filed in 2016 for the year 2015, according to public records. The squad last filed a financial report with the state in 2015, according to the state Division of Consumer Affairs. An online filing is required every year, according to the state.
TAPinto East Brunswick has reached out to the East Brunswick Rescue Squad, but had received no response after several attempts.
The location at 346 Cranbury Road - the former site of the East Brunswick Post Office - is the property of the Rescue Squad, not the Township. Following a request for information from the Robert Wood Johnson Health Network, Vice president Jim Smith said, "Following the closure of the East Brunswick Rescue Squad, Robert Wood Johnson Health Network has acquired all East Brunswick Rescue Squad assets, which includes ambulances, medical equipment and the squad’s facility on Cranbury Road in East Brunswick. The Health Network is committed to maintaining a strong presence in East Brunswick now and in the future. This presence will include responding to mutual aid support as requested by the township as well as offering robust educational programs and training to incoming EMTs and current EMS professionals.
We thank the many volunteers and employees who dutifully served East Brunswick and its residents since the squad was founded in 1952. East Brunswick remains an important part of our health system and the hospital’s service area. You can be assured that our Mobile Health team is steadfastly committed to serving this community and providing its residents with the exceptional emergency medical services they deserve."
Criscuolo judged that the sale of the property, worth nearly $1 million, would likely be used to pay the Rescue Squad's debts, but he was unsure where the balance of the funds would go following the purchase by RWJ.
The only statement with regard to the East Brunswick Rescue Squad closure was made by Chief Andrew Reid at various locations on social media: "I am personally sending you this message after significant consultation with President Ackerman.
As many of you know, the maintenance and upkeep of EBRS has been an absolute battle. We have all accomplished great things, and you have all shown your ability to be professionals; and your dedication is a lesson to the rest of the EMS Community.
Politics on the other hand are a different animal, and no matter what we do as an agency, we will never fully succeed. This has been proven on many levels that I will not discuss in this message, as I don't want to detract from the core of my message.
It is with an extremely heavy heart, I announce the closure of all Operations of the East Brunswick Rescue Squad, effective 4/1/19 @ 0600. The State License will be retired, and we will no longer function as an EMS Service moving into the future. This is to limit liability to the agency, the residents, and to close this chapter. Many of you will see this as a shock, many of you saw this coming; and that doesn't matter now. What matters now is memorializing our history, and moving forward.
For the immediate loose ends: Robert Wood Johnson EMS will be conducting on-site interviews at EBRS on 4/3, with offers being made on site to replace your volunteerism or employment. The Township of East Brunswick will be announcing their new 24/7 EMS Service on 4/16/19, and we did not and will not be submitting a response to the RFP. This decision is as a direct result of various litigation, finance, and personnel availability.
For everyone reading this message, please understand that we as an Administration have absolutely exhausted all avenues, and this is the only solution. I will be available throughout the week to answer questions on an individual basis or offer the full details of this decision, but this is a non-negotiable decision made by President Ackerman. We cannot turn back, we cannot fight anymore, and admitting defeat is the only option left.
I am not alone when I say Thank You to all of you for sticking with us throughout this process, and words cannot describe the amount of dedication and sacrifice all of you endured to try to make this all work.
I will leave you all with these words from Article II of the Code of Conduct for the Members of the United States Armed Forces: "I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist."
We have no means to resist, and this is not of free will.
Godspeed all of you,
Chief Andrew Reid"
TAPinto East Brunswick will continue to monitor the disengagement of the East Brunswick Rescue Squad and the transition to the new provider which begins on April 16.