STILLWATER TOWNSHIP, NJ – A controversy that started during the previous township committee meeting continued at the Tuesday, Aug. 21 meeting when two members of the township rescue squad confronted a committeeman.
Michael Losey, a first responder and a part-time employee of the municipal Department of Public Works asked the committee why the matter of his being sent home from the Saturday job after he answered a squad call, was not addressed during the course of the meeting.
Losey told The Alternative Press after the meeting he left on the squad call at 10am and returned at 12:12pm. He said when he returned his supervisor told him to clock out because the township committee liaison, Charles Gross, had come by and instructed him to tell Losey to leave.
Losey clocked out, but was later informed he would be paid for the remainder of the day. Gross said at the last committee meeting he was responding to complaints from other workers at the recycling center and had no intention of docking Losey his afternoon’s pay.
Township Attorney Lawrence Cohen told Losey at Tuesday’s meeting he was not being punished by the committee because in order for that to happen, he would have to receive what is known as a Rice notice and be asked if he wanted the matter discussed in public or private session. Cohen said his office did not receive a request from the township committee to Rice Losey, so there was no action intended.
When Losey attempted to go into the details of the situation, Cohen reminded him personnel issues could not be discussed at an open meeting with those Rice procedures in place.
Robert Losey, Michael’s brother, wrote a letter to the committee and wanted it read into the record.
Cohen said that would be a decision of the committee. Gross said he didn’t receive a copy and objected to having it read. “Everyone got the letter but me and it’s all about me,” he said.
Robert Losey said “Committeeman Gross didn’t receive the letter because he lied about things that happened.”
Committeewoman Anita Straway said she just opened her meeting packet this evening and had not had time to read it, so she did not want it read into the record.
Both Loseys asked Gross for an apology for, “disrespecting the EMTs and first responders,” as Michael Losey said.
Cohen said, “We all know the squad is here. We are tiptoeing around the issues. No one questions the right of a municipal employee to respond to an emergency. They have the right to respond. The committee is grateful. This was an unfortunate incident but the employee doesn’t lose pay.”
Gross said, “I do want to apologize to you two.”
Bob Losey said it was a conflict for Gross to continue as liaison to the DPW. The mayor and committee took no action on that statement.
The rescue squad was also involved in another controversy at the meeting.
The squad is purchasing a Stryker Power Load System for each of their two ambulances. Squad Captain Michelle Hess explained that is a piece of equipment mounted in the back of the ambulance that lifts the stretchers into the ambulance. She said the squad has power stretchers that raise and lower automatically. They are also made by Stryker, so the loading system will be compatible.
The committee became involved because in order for the squad to finance the purchase through Stryker, the governing body must co-sign because the township owns the ambulances.
The squad has the money on hand to purchase the two power loads outright, but it would leave them cash poor, Straway said.
Hess said if they couldn’t finance the purchase, they could buy one now and the other later, but she said the chance of defaulting on the financing would be very small.
Straway said the township’s chief financial officer had not been consulted. She said she didn’t want to agree to co-sign without knowing the squad and CFO spoke on the matter.
Cohen said, “I don’t understand why you own the ambulances, but Stryker could come to the township and seek payment. It’s not a township contract and there was no bidding. I think the likelihood of the township paying is remote.”
The committee voted to co-sign with Straway dissenting. She said she only voted “no” because the CFO had not signed off on it.